Some people would say that my dark view of human nature makes me a pessimist. I do believe that most people are driven by self-interest and I am often annoyed by the “positive-thinking” movement. However, I like to consider myself a realist. That’s because I tend to see everything in shades of gray, or at least I can understand other viewpoints even if I disagree with it. I know there are a lot of stories out there about horrific human behavior but I also read stories and know people who are good and philanthropic. And I do believe somewhat in the power of positive thinking, even if I don’t often practice it and I definitely don’t agree that you thinking good thoughts = good results.
Yet and all too often I get caught up in magical thinking, which I define as unrealistic optimism and positive thinking that doesn’t take facts into account.
Sometimes when life deals you blows over and over again, I suppose you need magical thinking just to keep going. You can’t start believing that you’re cursed or you”ll never get out of bed in the morning.
For me, the problem is that if I’m given small odds of succeeding, I think I’m in the minority, even if most of the facts indicate otherwise. Then I’m sorely disappointed when I don’t get what I want. Just as a fake example, let’s say there’s a job opening that requires a Masters Degree, whichI don’t have. And let’s say that this particular company is very big on having the right degree. However, a friend is willing to put in a referral on my behalf. Even my friend isn’t optimistic and honestly says I have a 10% chance of getting an interview, simply because s/he is putting in the referral. What do I do in this situation? I focus on the 10%… A 10% chance is better than zero. I’m convinced that my abilities and great cover letter will help me beat the odds. Many people say that’s the right way to think. The problem is that I’m truly disappointed if I don’t overcome those small odds. It might have been better if go for the opportunity, whatever it is, and hope for the best but actually keep the odds in mind and not be so surprised and disappointed over and over again. Does that make sense?
I can recall certain events in my life where I do this over and over again, despite the odds. I am also prone to spells of pessimism about my life and abilities, so maybe this magical thinking balances it out. I don’t act out based on these moods and my actions always tend to be well-thought out in the end, so I am ruling out any bi-polar disorders!
Where do you fall on the spectrum of optimism to pessimism?