Repurposing optimism and pessimism

Do you believe that the world is an ominous inferno ignited by screams and whimpers catalyzed by suffering and pain?
Does the world look like a bright fairyland filled with cheerful chuckles and lightsome moments?

Alright. Those are some ridiculously exaggerated definitions of pessimism and optimism. A simpler one would be, if you feel enthusiastic about the future, you are an optimist else you are a pessimist.
Now that it is clear, this is the part where I have to tell you what is my point. So shall we begin?

We assume being an optimist or a pessimistic is a trait ingrained in us. Something that defines who we are. You might say I am an optimist or pessimist like I am tall or I am brown. As if it is something we are born with and have to live with till we die. But what if we challenge that? What if we choose which one we want to be?

The first question that pops out of your head would be of these two depending on which category you fall into. Why should I feel grumpy when I see hope? Or why should I be jolly about this depressing world? But the question that bugged me is, is it right to change the way we feel about everything?

Duality over Polarity

The moment you see that optimism or pessimism is a mere filter through which you view the world around you, you realized that everything you see is a mere subjective overlay on the objective reality.

For those who felt like I was explaining quantum superposition from quantum mechanics, let me simplify. Whether you feel that the sun is warm and bright or something that burns everything that comes close to it, it doesn’t define what the sun is or what the truth is.

How on earth that is of any use to you?

The world requires your optimism and pessimism. You will find that some activities work best when you are an optimist and others work best when you are a pessimist. Optimism and pessimism require different mindsets which are rewarding in different activities.

Leadership requires optimism. Pessimism is inherently repulsive, which doesn’t fit well with leadership. Driving on the other hand will be better off if you are a pessimist than an optimist. You will be safer suspecting another car to come right at you in the corners. My arguments come into the picture when an excellent leader goes for a ride. It’s beneficial for him to be an optimist outside the car and a pessimist inside the car. This is a silly example to show my point that we can function optimally when we change our mindset according to the task at hand.

Repurposing optimism and pessimism

We need to stop tieing optimism and pessimism with our identity. Start seeing it as a mindset in which we are operating. Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist depends on what you are focusing on and what you are filling your head with. You will see the good bits if you are looking for that and the negatives if you are looking for that. So it doesn’t define who you are, it just defines where you are looking at.
If creativity requires you to look at the positives, criticism requires you to look at the negatives. Whether the glass is half empty or half full should only depend on whether you need the water, not who you are.

Whether it is optimism vs pessimism or extroversion vs introversion, or self-love vs self-hatred, or even male vs female, our quest for simplistic binary answers resulted in a mutual exclusivity that wiped out a spectrum of behaviors in between.

Wrap up

I know telling someone that it is advantageous to switch between optimism and pessimism when people are struggling to even control one of them seems downright outrageous. There will not be any point in saying expectation is the thief of joy, expecting for a change. Choosing between optimism and pessimism is an emotionally challenging task that would test your self-control and self-discipline. Something we are in dire shortage of.

You are utterly entitled to the way you see the world. You shouldn’t change that for anyone. But I want you to know that how you see the world is a choice you make and there is a possibility to change it. Whether you should do that depends on whether you need it.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *