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Are You An Optimist Or A Pessimist?

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“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”- James Branch Cabell

Noticing the difference is easy. An optimist, when faced with a problem, tends to find the up side to the situation and starts figuring out ways to solve that problem, or ways to turn it around. A pessimist, however, immediately throws up his hands, and yells, “That’s it; it’s all over. I can’t handle this anymore.” Or he will distance himself from the problem, pretending it doesn’t matter. This is denial, and it never works. Pessimists see the glass as half-empty, rather than half-full. They see the hole, instead of the donut; the cloud, rather than the silver lining.

An indication that you are dealing with a pessimist is in a simple phrase they will use in stressful situations. “I can’t.” The pessimist feels helpless, powerless in that situation and it shows in their response. The optimist responds with “I won’t.” This shows that they are making a conscious choice, not just reacting.

A pessimist is afflicted with the “what if” disorder. He constantly thinks, “what if something bad happens, what if I lose my job, what if co-workers don’t like me, what if, what if, what if…”

An optimist prefers to think more positively. What if nothing bad happens, what if everything comes out fine? They tend to focus on what they really want, not what might happen to them.

What exactly are the benefits of being optimistic, rather than pessimistic? For starters, an optimist is more likely to achieve their goals, because they never give up. They may even achieve goals faster than their more pessimistic counterparts. Optimists are just naturally happier, sunnier, and more energetic individuals; and they actually encounter fewer obstacles along the way. They also tend to inspire others to a more optimistic behavior and greater achievement.

Optimists are easier to be around, and can even make others feel more energetic and positive. Pessimists are very difficult to deal with and can make people around them feel very depressed and hopeless too.

Now true optimism is not sitting back, thinking positive thoughts, and hoping everything will turn out all right. It’s how you see the world, positively rather than negatively. You face each situation, each problem, and each occasion with a positive attitude; and you always look forward to the benefits you will derive from it. The pessimist focuses on the problem, rather than the solution. They don’t find a solution, because they’re not looking for one. They’re totally focused on failure. “That’s just the way it is; there’s nothing we can do,” they’ll tell you.

An optimist really believes they can make a difference in the situation or the problem, that there is a solution. They tend to bounce back quicker from losses and other life challenges than the pessimist. The pessimist sees failure as inevitable and never moves forward to reverse it.

What’s most difficult to take from pessimists is their judgment of others. This is the only way they can feel good about themselves. With so much self-hate, it’s no wonder that they have so little confidence in themselves or any self-esteem. This attitude brings everyone down to their level. Dr. Phil would tell you they do this because there’s a payoff somewhere. So, what is it? They don’t have to take responsibility for their own lives; they take no action to pull themselves from this pessimistic mindset.

Sidney J. Harris said, “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.” And Peggy Noonan said, “Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.”

What it comes down to is that your attitude is a conscious choice. If you choose to be pessimistic, you’re choosing to see the down side of every situation, judge people unfairly, and live unhappily the rest of your life. What an oppressive existence!

On the other hand, if you choose optimism, you’re empowering yourself to see the positive side of each challenge, seeing the good in people, helping them to see the good in life too, taking action to further improve your own life, and living happily with friends and family who care about you.

Choosing to be more optimistic and positive does not mean you won’t encounter difficult times, trauma, loss and many challenges. What it does mean is that you will have more power on your side to help you through those tough times. You’ll bounce back faster and make better choices, rather than letting life just wash over you. You’ll learn to be proactive, instead of reactive.

If you’re not naturally optimistic and positive, don’t worry. You can learn how to use your thoughts to change your attitude and emotions. It won’t be easy; some days will be very challenging, but you can do it. Each time your mind produces a negative thought, stop right there and turn it around to find the positive aspect of the situation. Do this each time and soon, it will become a habit to be positive and upbeat about your life.

It’s your choice. “Change your thoughts and change your world,” said Norman Vincent Peale

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