Optimism isn’t always the easiest way to approach life, but is realistic optimism more ideal?
We would all love to be as optimistic as possible all the time. Unfortunately, this will not be the case – and that’s ok. It’s fine to acknowledge that things aren’t always going to go perfectly despite our desires for that. Keeping a positive state of mind, and practicing realistic optimism, may serve you better than blind positivity.
The difference between the two is is that blind positivity contains a sense of ignorance to it. Ignorance does not mean stupidity, it just means a lack of knowledge about something. Taking a blind positivity approach may seem like an ideal mindset, but it will not do you any favors in the long run. Blind positivity makes you shut out the outside world. It puts a pair of blinders on your head and doesn’t allow you to face reality.
Blind positivity creates a false sense of reality and it glosses over areas of life, creates ignorance, and shuts out a lot of the world. The big issue with this is that it causes you to minimize experiences, and this can slowly eat away at your life.
This article will look at why realistic optimism is a much better approach and ways to cultivate it.
What Is Realistic Optimism?
Ideally, you don’t want to be overly pessimistic, and also not blindly positive. Realistic optimism lies somewhere in the middle. It is thought that optimism is only helpful when it’s realistic.
One great definition of realistic optimism comes to us from the medical world. If you are coming out of a major injury, or serious illness, you have to be realistic in how you approach the immediate future. One must ease back into daily activities and understand what the limitations are. Some things will limit you, some will be off-limits, but others will be possible.
This is the approach that embraces realistic optimism – understanding your limitations. Realistic optimism acknowledges negativity, but it doesn’t dwell on it.
Another way to look at realistic optimism is how you respond to when life knocks you down. It’s easy to take a negative approach and feel pity and self-sorrow.
We all have negative thoughts, there’s no denying or escaping that. So why do some people remain positive while others are extremely negative and pessimistic? If we all share these negative thoughts from time to time, what allows you to break free from them?
Here are some ways to cultivate realistic optimism:
1. Understand What Is And Isn’t In Your Control
In the case of the person coming off of an illness, injury or setback, the first thing to do is to start with a list of what you can do, what you have difficulty doing, and then the things you just can’t do.
Seeing the list of the things you can do can be a great way to boost optimism while being realistic – as the list may be longer than you expected. The list of things you would have difficulty doing can also create some optimism as it means they are not totally ruled out.
This middle list can give you a challenge and it can help you create realistic goals and timelines to accomplish this. Having a goal is always a great way to stay positive, motivated, and optimistic.
2. Understanding You Can’t Change The Past, You Can Only Change The Present
It’s so easy to dwell on past mistakes and screwups. You may wish you could just go into your mind and rip these negative thoughts out to never be seen again. It can get to where you feel these bad memories define who you are and you can’t escape them. The realistic optimism approach is to remember that you can’t change the past, you can only change the present.
When a memory that comes up that you wish you had reacted better to, tell yourself that this was the best you could do at the time. It’s ok that you didn’t have enough information, or weren’t strong enough then. Instead, learn from it and use it to make better decisions in the future.
There’s no point in beating yourself up for past mistakes as they are over and done with. Realistic optimism is about working with those negative thoughts, but keeping them in the past so they don’t prevent you from moving forward.
3. It’s All About Being Proactive In Your Approach
The realistic optimist is still at their core, passionately optimistic. They are just able to see things from all viewpoints and take in, and process, a variety of information.
Not only are they very aware, but they are also very proactive in making things happen and knowing they will succeed. Some of the most successful people are realistic optimists as they take all the best elements of realism, and optimism, and combine them together.
Realistic optimism is all about perseverance and determination. It acknowledges that setbacks will happen, but they don’t have to define or disrupt you. Winston Churchill was the definition of the realistic optimist, most notably, when he said: “Never, never, never give up.”
4. Give Yourself More Credit
Again, it’s easy to focus on the negative. We seem to do that as it’s away to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions. If we can blame things on our circumstances, we’re off the hook for being an active participant in our own lives. Realistic optimism understands that things will not always be perfect, but makes it a point to celebrate the small wins.
It’s the approach that every cloud has a silver lining, and list what you did best – however small it may be. Don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back and celebrate your successes.
Blind positivity sounds nice, but it’s not a realistic way to go through life. On the other hand, you don’t want to be focussed on negative pessimism. Both of these are surefire ways to rob yourself of true joy.
Realistic optimism emerges as the perfect alternative to both. Being realistically optimistic allows you to be as positive as possible despite the circumstances, while not ignoring the hardships. The sooner you can come to grips to letting go of the things out of your control, and embrace realistic optimism, the freer you can feel.
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