We all know the slightly abstract way of gauging an optimist, right? Their glass is half full, whilst the pessimist’s glass is half empty. Then along come a new breed of realists who point out that the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. But what does this really tell us about people’s attitude to life and their experience of it?
Attitudes and experiences
I believe that our attitudes and experiences are strongly linked. Our expectations often set the marker for our achievements and thus our future expectations. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to expect the best out of each situation? According to many people, the answer is a resounding ‘No!’ They claim that it’s better to anticipate the worst so that they can prepare for it. That way, they believe, they retain more control over their circumstances and are less likely to make a mistake. Perhaps there’s an element of logic and truth to this way of thinking, but what are these people missing out on?
Learning by our mistakes
Aren’t mistakes supposed to be one of the best ways of learning or discovering something new? There is a whole world out there full of potential errors that some people are quite happy to make in order to get ahead, whilst others hardly dare to venture out from their front door and risk changing the status quo. This is all about the concept called the ‘comfort zone’. Some people have developed huge areas of comfort – and therefore confidence – and each new experience they endure has the potential to stretch it, whilst others find their comfort zones shrinking with each pessimistic thought. Of course, many of these people don’t label themselves as pessimists. Instead, they proudly state that they are just cynical. It gives the impression of wisdom and shows people they can’t be fooled easily. To me, it suggests a possible history of hardship – enough to have taught them to stop trying and to create protective barriers instead.
Do you choose to be an optimist?
Surely we are all born with natural optimism? Most young children have so much hope and faith in life and yet many of these innocents quickly lose sight of their aspirations and start to question everything. Perhaps they convince themselves they will lose their race on Sports Day, which of course happens because they become so miserable that they drag their feet. When they inevitably come last, a pessimist is born. The following year they don’t even enter the race. And maybe for the rest of their lives they are afraid of competition.
Perhaps that’s too simplistic an explanation for everybody, but it’s an example of how scepticism creates self-fulfilling prophecies.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t,
you’re probably right.” – Henry Ford.
I’ve spoken to many pessimists (sorry; cynics or realists!) In fact most of my clients start out that way. Some of them don’t even believe in hypnosis and yet they find themselves confessing that I’m their last hope. It is my job to lift them from their pit of negativity before we can even begin discussing their potential for improvement.
I explain that optimists are more likely to see opportunities in their life because they have their eyes open to them. Why wait for fate to deliver things for you? Acknowledge that you are responsible for your life and automatically you take control and therefore power. Blaming external events or people is like giving away your power. We can all take control of our thoughts, feelings and actions once we realise it is simply another choice we make.