There are two types of people in this world…
From time to time I find myself wondering who is the most successful in life - the optimist or the pessimist? This comes to mind for me particularly at this time of year when we are thinking of what the year ahead could hold for us.
I’ll start by confessing that I am an optimist, with a side order of healthy ‘show me the data’ to back it up, describing myself as optimistic with the intent to ‘keep it real’. An optimistic realist if you will. My preferred lens on the world is that I believe in being positive and, in turn, that drives me to look for ways to change what I am doing to get the best possible outcome.
I see those who are more pessimistic in nature believing that things will most likely not get better soon or that the worst of two outcomes will happen. I’ve noticed people who are inclined to be more pessimistic making choices designed to keep their expectations lower and questioning the need to change the path they are on, fundamentally believing that to change things is to invite more risk and the chance of a worse outcome. Another way of looking at this is that the Pessimist prefers to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
An article I read last year espoused the values of a pessimistic outlook. When the stakes are high, being more cautious and looking for what could go wrong may well save the day. It can stop us from taking high stake risks because we have seen that the risks are more costly than the benefits that could be achieved.
Looking for the good
The article published by Forbes concluded, however, that the optimist outlook on life is more likely to lead to better results and a happier life. The optimist looks for the good in a situation and the opportunities in difficult times. They learn from these moments and are ready to do things differently when similar situations occur in the future. They tend to be more resilient and full of energy resulting in less stress and more likely a healthier, more successful life.
What if we have a pessimistic lens on life?
Well, according to research, we can help ourselves reframe something we see as negative or impossible to achieve by asking ourselves ‘what could be a different outcome, what will it take to make that happen, where have I seen that happen before?’ By repeatedly doing this when issues arise, we are able to remind ourselves that there are often other possible outcomes rather than catastrophising, and automatically thinking the worst.
What I’ve realised
What is clear to me is that we should always keep ourselves open to different ways of looking at an issue or an opportunity; taking the time to think through the possible solutions and outcomes from a different perspective, not just leaping to an answer because it seems obvious to us.
I know that during many times in my life my optimistic outlook has helped me get through difficult moments, remembering that better times will come. At the same time, I have surrounded myself with people who have a different perspective to my own.
Over the years I have learnt to listen carefully to those voices, so that I give myself the chance to take a different path to the one I would normally leap onto.
So, is it better to be an optimist or a pessimist? You will have your view, but I believe whatever we have as our preferred way of approaching life, we can be even more happy, successful and healthy if we keep ourselves open to new possibilities.