Ok, I was doing research on another topic when I ran across this article, written by Jared Sandberg, in the Wall Street Journal.
Sandberg’s article asserts, you’ll need to read it for yourself, that "pessimists are more accurate at gauging success and failure rates (than optimists)," and that "evidence shows that pessimism can be highly motivational, as what’s called ‘defensive pessimism’ drives people to achieve their goals."
In my experience, more often than not, this is less of an issue of optimism versus pessimism, and more of a perception of control.
What I mean by that statement is this; I’ve spent an entire career (25 years) in the technology services business in manufacturing. It’s taken me nearly that long to learn the lesson that I don’t CONTROL most of my environment. I might have influence over the people and events around me, but I don’t CONTROL their actions or outcomes.
The ONLY thing I can control in my life is me, and my actions, and more specifically my reactions to people and events. When I don’t trust my intuition, and more spiritually, my faith, that things will work out the way they’re supposed to; and I try to control and manipulate the people and events to achieve outcomes I perceive as RIGHT, I, more often than not, fail… miserably.
I’m NOT saying that I sit around in a “Pollyanna,” self-delusional catatonic state, with my fingers plugged in my ears yelling “nah, nah, nah, nah… I don’t hear you!” I can be, at times, fairly pessimistic (just ask my wife).
The key here, in my humble opinion, is balance. It seems to me that it’s easy, when things get tough, to either ignore them, or run around screaming “the sky is falling!” It’s all about understanding the influence an individual has in a given situation, and acting in balance according to that influence.
For example, in a real life illustration, I have a friend whose organization is restructuring, and he finds himself reporting to a new supervisor, one he apparently didn’t see eye-to-eye with the first time they worked together. My friend in these circumstances had NO control over whether or not he was re-assigned. He DOES, however, have control over how he REACTS to the change.
Look, I’m not saying that change is easy, change is hard. But we as individuals have a choice on the attitude we adopt when reacting to crisis. In a study done by the VA on resiliency, soldiers most likely to survive a traumatic experience like a war time prison camp are those who have certain key characteristics, among that optimism.
So in the end, this is all about balance, and being active participants in our own lives. Inaction, whether it’s fostered by optimism OR pessimism is complacency, and complacency more than anything else will lead to failure.
I’m reminded; again, about the old joke the man sitting on the stoop of his house during a flood…
As the flood waters were rising, another man in a row boat came by.
The man in the row boat told the man on the stoop to get in and he’d save him. The man on the stoop said, no, he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him.
The flood waters kept rising and the man had to go to the second floor of his house.
A man in a motor boat came by and told the man in the house to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him.
The flood waters kept rising. Pretty soon they were up to the man’s roof and he got out on the roof. A helicopter then came by, lowered a rope and the pilot shouted down in the man in the house to climb up the rope because the helicopter had come to rescue him. The man in the house wouldn’t get in. He told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him.
The flood waters kept rising and the man in the house drowned.
When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown.
"What more do you want from me?" asked God. "I sent you two boats and a helicopter."