When invited to have a more positive outlook, some say that they prefer to be realistic rather than optimistic. Does an optimistic attitude leave no room to be realistic, or vice versa? Let's look at the way these two traits actually work hand in hand, by considering their definitions and how we might apply them in different situations.
If you're optimistic, it means that you have a bright and hopeful view of the future. Optimistic people are positive and they are confident that the future can be great. When optimistic people face challenges, they are not quick to give up, because they have a strong sense of hope. They believe that challenges can be tackled and even difficult problems can be resolved with some thought and preparation. Optimistic people view the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Moreover, they are open to making a refreshing glass of lemonade with the lemons that life hurls at them.
Is being realistic the complete opposite to being optimistic? Actually, no. Being realistic means than you have a sensible or practical idea of what can be achieved or expected. A realistic person does not expect the world of themselves, or of other people. Realistic people are ready for when unexpected situations arise, because they have generally been prepared for multiple scenarios. Realistic people can often avoid massive disappointment because they are practical and express an awareness of things as they really are.
Based on the descriptions above, what opinion are you forming? Do you think optimism and realism are compatible traits? Actually, I think they work really well together and complement each other. Optimism is the force that keeps you going, keeps you motivated. When you are optimistic you are able to handle difficult situations well and get back up. The same is true when you are realistic and have realistic expectations about your life. Both traits encourage resilience.
When you are both optimistic and realistic it works this way: You are hopeful and confident that you will see good results from your hard work, yet you don't expect an overly simplistic journey, you have a balanced view of the obstacles you may face along the way. Therefore you don't expect each step towards your goal to be easy or perfect, but you expect the end result to be rewarding and fulfilling.
See how these two qualities work hand in hand? It just shows that you can have a positive and hopeful view of the future without being naive. If you have an optimistic perspective, it does not demonstrate a lack of thoughtfulness and good judgement. You could very well know all the possible risks and obstacles on your path, yet you choose to be cheerful and make the best of whatever circumstances you've got. Yes, it is about choice.
At the same time, a realistic perspective does not have to be associated with being gloomy. A realistic person is totally capable of being hopeful and positive. They just show a mature understanding of the issues that one may have to encounter along the way.
I strive to have a mix of both optimism and realism, I think it is a good place to be. Don't be negative about the future, be positive. Yet, don't expect absolute perfection of yourself, others or other external circumstances. Know that there is a lot more to people and situations than meets they eye, and that sometimes you will have to put in a lot of effort before you start seeing the desired results. Being both optimistic and realistic will really serve you well. It will help you tackle a wide range of situations that require a little bit of both mindsets.
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I recently read a short excerpt by Alain de Botton that made really reflect and think: Can we blame others for not understanding us? Let me explain:
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