Choices filled with hope reflect optimism. Those that reflect fear, pessimism. We all know those eternally-optomisitc types; the like that believe that every cloud has a silver lining. And, unfortunately, we've probably met more than a few Negative Nellies, as well. Is it possible for a pessimist to become an optomist and make choices based on hope? The answer is yes. With time, we can learn to rewire out thought process.
There are five ways that optomists are different that pessimists. With a little work pessimists can, if they choose to do so, begin to see the wolrd in a happier light.
1. Optomists believe they can shape their future. Pessimists often feel that they have no control over their lives...they're victims of circumstances. Optomists believe they can improve their their life and make choices that will move them forward. Pessimists don't understand the concept of 2nd, 3rd, or even 33rd, chances; if something fails once, it's forever hopeless. If you tend towards pessimistist attitudes, begin with trying to believe the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." It's Ok to fail. That's how we learn what not to do the next time. That should help improve your hopes for the future.
2. Optomists are forward-looking. This means they believe things will improve, regardless of what's going on with them today. Ok, so yesterday is filed away as either a good, bad, or neutral experience. We can be happy about what occurred...or we can lean from what occurred. Either way, it's finished. Present moments are neutral. We don't yet know the outcome of what we do. Anything good, or bad, can happen from this moment on. Optomists believe their future is bright. Guess which way the pessimist will think. Yep, just like Chicken Little, the pessimist will think that "the sky is falling!" Another skill the optomist has in his tool belt, is connecting today's positive experiences (no matter how small they may seem) to the hope for a better tomorrow. Case in point: Someone runs a stop sign and hits your car causing minor damage to it...but not to you. The pessimist thinks ugly, negative things about the other driver and then boldly says, "These things ALWAYS happen to me!" The optomist, on the other hand, won't spend much time thinking about the other driver, will be thankful he wasn't hurt, and then make plans to take the car in for repair the following day. Easy-peasy. Pessimistic views are based on bad, or traumatic, experiences from their past. They've taught themselves well, that bad things always happen to them. The past can, and will, cripple you if you let it. So, would-be optomists, just try to remember that your doom-and-gloom outlook is based on your past. It has no bearing on your future. It's a tough concept to grasp, I know, but as an optomist, I know you can do it! And, really, so do you. All you need to do is watch those negative thoughts and remind yourself of where they came from; your personal ancient history.
3. Optomists are confident in themselves. They believe that they can overcome whatever "stuff" life throws at them. Pessimists simpy cave-in with just the mere thought of hurdles or obstacles. Lacking confidence leads to pessimism. Pessimists often set goals that are unrealistic...at least at first. Let's say, you want to become a great chef. You can't start off as a great chef, no one does that. You've got to start off with learning the basics before attempting a mile-high souffle! Because if it falls, and most likely it will, the pessimist will give up cooking. And say, "I have no talent." The optomist, however, will have a good laugh over the mess and begin the next time with something simple, perhaps learning to make really light and fluffy scrambled eggs.
4. Optomists see opportunities. Pessimists see problems. Optomists see problems as opportunities to learn new skills. Pessimists see problems as, well, problems. "I don't know where to begin...I've got so many problems to face." I'm guilty of saying this quite often, I must admit. Optomists think, "Gee, I don't know where to begin...there are so many exciting options out there." Sometimes the best way to handle a problem is to say, "So what? I'm choosing to move forward." For the pessimist, this will be a new concept, and one that won't be easy to swallow, but after you say this a few times, you can slowly begin to rewire your brain so that it has new, happier ways of thinking about things.
5. Optomists have better, but shorter lives. So before you declare omtimism dead and start becoming pessimistic, let me explain. In a study performed in Germany, it was found that pessimists, by their very nature, tend to me far more careful and take far fewer risks. This, in turn, can positively affect their health and safety, thus making for a longer, but less pleasant life. The key isn't to ditch optomism, it's to learn to live authentically. It is possible to be both an optomist and safe. Simply pay a little closer attention to the things you do. No unnecessary risk-taking, just because you can. Another study, though, presents data that optomists have better heart-health, which can increase the length of one's life. The study showed that optomists have a 50% reduced risk of having a cardiovascular event compared to pessimists. Too, the sense of well-being that optomtists feel can cause them to engage in healthier habits, such as eating better and exercising regularly. Well-being also leads to lower blood pressure, healthier lipids (blood fat) profiles, and even a better body weight.
Although life experiences teach us to be either optomists or pessimists, we don't have to accept pessimism as a cold, hard fact-of-life. We can change. It all boils down to becoming much more self-aware. When we start to pay attention to our words, thoughts, and actions, we can begin to brighten those inner "black clouds." After awhile, we may actually begin to see their silver lining. Happiness beats sadness every time. Optomism, and thus happiness and life-satisfction, is a skill that can be learned...just like cooking or writing. The trick is not expect too much too soon. And, just like when it comes to losing weight, slow and steady leads to the permanent optomistic change we want, and hope, will happen.