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Someone asked me this morning whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. Oh dear, light the blue touchpaper and stand clear…
I used to be a card-carrying pessimist.
There, I’ve said it.
For a long time, I embraced pessimism on the basis that if you expect the worst, it can’t jump out on a long dark night and mug you.
(Did I just hear a collective scream from all the manifesters out there? Apologies, lovely vibration peeps.)
I couldn’t keep it up, though. Even before I got into mindset training, I realised that if I went around anticipating the worst, then that’s what I would inevitably focus on. I was teaching my mind to consider failure and disaster as acceptable outcomes.
When you cobble pessimism together with the inner piece that leans towards perfectionism, you end up with a mess of tension.
Different belief strands were constantly pulling me in opposite directions. When my Pessimistress said, “The worst will do just fine“, my Perfectionista would shriek, “Oh no it bloody well won’t!“.
Hardly surprising, then, that my default state was rampant procrastinator. Seriously, I achieved next to nothing for YEARS.
I tried optimism, I really did, but that didn’t fit either because a relentlessly rosy world view ignores the reality that shit sometimes happens.
When I retrained as a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, I saw plenty of evidence that mindless optimism can be as unhealthy and disturbing as mindless pessimism. If you steadfastly refuse to accept that terrible things can happen, you have no place to go if they do. When everything you believe has been proved wrong, it can be extremely difficult to pick yourself up. Your entire (immature) world view breaks apart, rather than bending and recovering.
So, with neither ‘ism’ working out, what’s a girl to do?
Fast forward a few years and a heck of a lot of thought and I’ve finally arrived at a comfortable position in the optimist vs pessimist balancing act – though I had to invent a new word to describe it.
Essentially, what that means is that I hope and plan and take action for the best.
But I also assess the most likely risks and obstacles and, if necessary, I make a plan to deal with them.
When derailment threatens or actually happens, I ask myself the world’s second most useful question** (which I advise my clients to get tattooed somewhere with quick-zip access):
“What’s the best possible outcome for me and others in this situation and how can I make it happen?”
It’s a largely positive and solution-focused mindset, but it takes account of life’s realities too.
The upshot of optirealimism? Greater resilience and a lot less disturbance. I highly recommend it.
So what about you? Where do you sit on the optimist-pessimist continuum?
PS – If you know you have it in you to be a game-changer but you feel stuck and don’t know how to stop self-sabotaging, drop me a line to arrange a chat. I’d love to help you turn your potential into power.
**PPS – If you want to know the world’s MOST useful question, take a look here.