By Ryan Jackson – entrepreneur, success coach and motivational speaker.
Optimism versus realism – where do you stand?
Positivity is an excellent trait to have in life and work; but there’s a fine balance between hopefulness and false hope. Similarly, a realistic perspective is good, as long as your grip on reality doesn’t confine you, quashing dreams and aspirations. I advocate a perfect balance between the two: optimistic realism.
Here’s how you can learn to become an optimist – while keeping it real.
Assess your perspective
Firstly, carefully consider the following four questions for you to answer:
- How far are you an optimist? According to the Oxford Dictionary, an optimist is defined as: ‘A person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something’?
- How far are you a realist? ‘A person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly’ as defined by the Oxford Dictionary.
- To you, are these contradictory, or even polar opposites?
- Could you be both? An optimistic realist?
Many people might argue that there is no such thing as an ‘optimistic realist’ – because for them, optimism and realism sit at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Glass Half Full
Optimists look on the bright side, see good things ahead, and tend to remain positive, even when things are not going in their favour. I’m sure that many of you will agree how amazing it would be to have this as your constant state of mind. And yet, is it altogether realistic? Some optimists live in a dream world, which can be frustrating for themselves and others. What happens when things go wrong? Do optimistic people always make realistic plans and take action to ensure success? Or do they live on hopes and wishes?
Realists tend to focus on facts, basing their perspective on how things are – their current reality. It is good to be grounded – but if your sense of ‘reality’ is that it’s a negative experience, or if you have a natural tendency towards pessimism, or you expect things to go wrong, this attitude isn’t helpful – and it will limit your potential. It’s hard to have hopes and dreams for the future, and raise your expectations if your focus and dependence on reality drags you down. A risk-averse person who assesses every action in life as risky would never do anything.
Striking a Balance
I believe there is a real need for us to display both characteristics. But what is an optimistic realist? Hugely successful people are optimistic realists: ‘A person who accepts a situation, is hopeful and confident about the future/ success and is prepared to deal with it all accordingly’. They accept the present, envision a positive future and take action to make their vision a reality. Motivated and excited by big dreams, they pin them down with action. How do you get that balance right?
How to have the best of both mindsets
Reframe negative beliefs into positive ones. The first step is to notice. If you tell yourself ‘Life is hard’ or ‘Money is the root of all evil’ – it becomes your reality. Change your thinking to change your reality. Tell yourself ‘Life is easy’ or ‘Money is good’ – or if that’s a step too far straight off, say, ‘It’s getting easier’ or ‘I’m managing better each day.’ Soon, you’ll be saying things like ‘Life is amazing!’ or ‘I am wealthy!’
Use affirmations: By repeating positive thoughts and phrases, you can reprogram the subconscious mind with new beliefs, new stories and new ideas; all of which will manifest in your physical reality. Thoughts become things.
Use visualisation: Through the focused awareness of visualisation you can open the doors of possibility and enrich your world in incredible ways. Imagine positive outcomes, and make them vivid and multisensory. What the subconscious sees, it believes.
Plan, and act: Famous French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish.’ And a plan without action is a paper exercise. So, make sure that your dreams, ideas and visualised or imagined goals and outcomes are backed up by steps you will take to get you those results, in reality.
If you want to make real, positive changes in your world, be creative, tell yourself a better story, and act on it. You will be inspired, attract opportunities, and create success – through optimistic realism.
About the expert
Ryan Jackson is an entrepreneur, success coach and motivational speaker who coaches individuals and teams on how to be the best versions of themselves using self-care and mindfulness techniques. His new book, The Success Rebellion, was released on 16th October and is a new, dynamic approach to living your best life. It teaches the key principles to help develop a healthy mindset and self-belief, optimism, and emotional intelligence. For more information, please visit www.ryanjackson.org