In Defense of Optimism

Deciding whether to be an optimist or a pessimist is one of the most important decisions you can make

If it was not for optimism, my life would have taken a very different path.

I would have turned down opportunities to try new things and accepted the bad things that happened to me without working towards a more positive future.

Pessimism helps to protect people but this comes at a cost. While pessimism is grounded in the reality that sometimes things won't go well, it risks putting everything in that bucket and leading to people missing out on things that might actually go well. Being optimistic gives me the courage to take risks, the opportunity to learn from mistakes and grow in a direction I want to head.

It's true that optimism doesn't come without risk. By trying to focus on the good in people and situations, I have opened myself up to exploitation and danger. I've also jumped at opportunities that I persuaded myself would be amazing only to find out they weren't so. A pessimist would have handled things differently and would probably have been better off for it in the short term. But pessimists risk not making mistakes, and I find that mistakes are the best way for me to learn and grow.

Optimistic people can wind pessimists up by trying to force positivity on them. In most cases, I don't see why this is a bad thing. In the face of crisis or adversity, what's wrong with somebody offering a positive perspective to help balance the doom and gloom? That said, I do think optimism can become toxic when it's repeatedly forced on people in unrealistic scenarios. The trick is to accept something bad, acknowledge that it's bad and then move on to the future with optimism.

A life chasing dreams

When I look back at the darkest moments of my life, optimism is the thing that got me through.

When I find myself wrapped up in the harshness of life and dreading another day, I look for things to be hopeful about and reasons to keep going.

Dreams are so important to me. I try to figure out what steps I can take to make dreams come true instead of dismissing them as impossible. I find living my life chasing dreams is far more rewarding than thinking there's no way any of them will actually happen.

Being an optimist in a room full of pessimists can get awkward. I've found myself in that situation in some jobs in the past. Unless you're in a senior leadership position, there's often little you can do to change a company culture, so sometimes it's best to move on to a more positive environment that doesn't drag you down.

You're not one or the other all of the time. It's natural to be optimistic about some things and pessimistic about others.

The question is: which way do you sway?