Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo
Constantly seeing the glass as half full may seem like the “in thing” to do these days, but do yourself a favor and leave the pure, unadulterated optimism to someone else. It’s definitely beneficial to have a generally positive outlook, but there’s a big difference between that kind of unrealistic optimism and optimistic realism.
All of the recent talk about mindfulness has some people under the misguided impression that if they visualize success, it will arrive on their doorstep. ”If I believe it will happen, it will happen!” Unfortunately, this is a completely unhealthy way of thinking, especially if all you’re doing is believing.
Living a mindful life means being aware of and accepting things exactly as they are – even as you’re mindfully aware of being caught in a downpour without an umbrella. Mindfulness isn’t about reaching your goals at all, actually; it’s about being present enough in any given moment to appreciate all aspects of that moment, taking the good with the bad.
Adopting a mindful attitude does generally mean approaching life with a positive outlook - that part’s true, but it doesn’t mean you should become blissfully unaware. Observing and experiencing your life’s moments mindfully and then taking meaningful, realistic action is the key.
The most successful people are full of optimism but are keenly aware of reality, as well. To achieve your goals, you’ll need to master the fine art of balancing the two mindsets. As it was once said by William Ward, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
Pessimists never get very far toward their goals because they spend most of their time and energy complaining. Uber-optimists tend to spend most of their days in La-La Land, fantasizing about the future and assuming that their destiny is already decided for them.
Optimistic Realism: An Oxymoron?
It all boils down to this: actions speak louder than words. The only way to get where you want to be is to get up and start moving. You’ll need to have a realistic mindset about the road ahead of you on your journey. Bumps in the road will challenge you, for sure, and instead of wearing blinders, you’ll fare much better if you’re on the lookout for any detours you may need to take along the way.
So, keep your (moving) feet on the ground but leave your mind wide open. Your continued optimistic belief in yourself will help you succeed, but true success will only come when you put forth effort, careful planning and dogged persistence.