Is optimism overrated? Is it an empty word? Some say yes.
Optimism is good for our mental health and overall outlook but it will do nothing to improve our situation. Optimism without perspective and action is ineffective.
Don’t be mistaken, an optimistic perspective has several advantages, the chief among them being that it opens our minds to see and seize opportunities a pessimistic mind would overlook. However, the most important quality of optimism is that it can be the fuel to take action. Optimism is seeing the opportunities in the challenges we face, whereas action is the bridge to making the desired outcome a reality.
Paradoxically an optimistic individual who fails to take action may find their optimism souring into pessimism due to the negative outcomes of inaction. Even worse, they will find themselves regretting the actions they didn’t take. Regret is much more painful than pessimism in that its disappointment is fully realized, much like building a second story onto our sorrow.
When is pessimism useful?
Psychologists have identified two types of pessimism. Depressive and defensive.
Depressive pessimism saps the willpower of the individual who believes they lack the skills, resources, and talent to succeed. In its simplest form, it says ‘why even bother?’
Defensive pessimists are quite different. They worry about specific potential negative outcomes and then harness that anxiety to take action. A defensive mindset anticipates the unexpected and seeks to find ways to adapt and overcome.
Whether you are a self-described pessimist or optimist, know how to harness each to a positive end result. Seek the mindset that best serves you while remaining rooted in the reality of the challenges you face.
Is optimism overrated? Yes, when it results in no action taken. However, it remains a priceless asset in helping us take the first steps toward deliberate and continued activities to grow our business.