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food's avatar

How hard do you find it to be realistic and optimistic at the same time?

Asked by food (790points) November 11th, 2010

Sometimes, being a realist can seem like you´re being a pessimist. How can you be healthily realistic and optimistic at the same time? Is it almost contradictory? I would love to be entirely optimistic but I also like to have my feet on the ground… if you are able to achieve that, how do you do it? If not, what do you think about the subject?

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23 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

Being a realist is the practical way to put optimism into action.

lillycoyote's avatar

Difficult, certainly. But you just have to try not to completely surrender to pessimism and cynicism, I think. It can be hard. I think you have to look at the good that there is and draw hope and strength from that. Looking at the world, at life “realistically” also includes seeing the good that is in it, seeing the hope and the possibility for good and the possibility for change, for any and every change for the better, that is there too. It’s easy for a “realist” to forget that sometimes, I think.

@iamthemob is right, about realism, optimism and action. Surrendering to pessimism makes us all, at least any of us who might want to try to help make the world a better place, pretty much useless, in my opinion. And it’s kind of self-indulgent, I think, or maybe I know, because I have indulged myself in that very same attitude of pessimism and it doesn’t help anyone, including myself.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Damn near impossible.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am a realist but I have an optimistic outlook on life. Mostly because I believe I create my own fate or luck or whatever. If I enter into any endeavor feeling as if I am going to succeed, then I almost always do!

Cruiser's avatar

No…it is second nature to me and I would not allow it to be any other way. I would explode on the spot if I let pessimism creep into my life.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I have been called an optimistic pessimist. I expect and plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I am seldom dissappointed with this attitude, and most of the time I am pleasantly surprised to one degree or another. When I start planning for and expecting the best, life usually has a kick in the teeth waiting for me around the next corner.

Joybird's avatar

Let me reframe this a bit. I want to replace a word here because it may give you a clue as to how you do what your objective is. You can be a realist and still live with possibility. Living with possibility allows you to view life objectively and then play whatever hand you are dealt in the moment in the most effective way possible. Doing this is also realistic. I don’t subscribe to total positivism. I find it to be phoney and unrealistic as it seems to deny what can be very real limitations. Possibility looks at limitiations and then asks…how can we get around that or how do we adjust the goal? Positivists or total optimism just continues to insist that everything is possible. It isn’t.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My SO and are both realists. While he tends to assess situations as what to might go wrong, I look at the possibilities. Somehow, it works out to be a good balance, as we respect each other’s opinion, and it allows us to stretch in our though process.

Nially_Bob's avatar

I’ve rarely found it difficult. It’s easy to look at a murder and say that human nature is cruel but such can blind us from the contrasting situations. For every natural disaster there’s a world of natural beauty, for every genocide committed by a small group of people there are tens of thousands of others willing to give you the coat off their back, for every negative realisation there arises positive possibilities. It’s a realistic attitude that allows one to look at matters objectively and consequently see both the positive and negative elements of it. Unfortunately it can sometimes become all too exhausting to examine things in this manner and a focus on the negative elements can be introduced. I think it’s my general inclination to perceive matters as mostly positive on some level that has caused me little issue with retaining my realistic optimism.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Studies have shown that those who are a little bit pessimistic are more in touch with reality than those who are a little bit optimistic.

Pandora's avatar

Didn’t know you could successfully put them together.

food's avatar

I knew my fellow fluthers would flourish at answering this philosophical question!

food's avatar

I knew my fellow fluthers would flourish at fluently answering this philosophical question!

food's avatar

I wonder what helps people adapt more to changes, being more realistic or being more optimistic….You see, I tend to be optimistic and realistic at the same time (or juggle them both as I mentioned in the question=, but I find that my realism often turns into pessimism when I have to adapt to a big change—that might be the best way to explain it. So if I´m going through a big life crisis which is full of several big changes, then that´s when pessimism takes over….

food's avatar

And you´re right that it almost becomes self-indulging, lillycoyote, maybe the key to juggling both things is to pay attention to what´s feeding pessimism and either curb those secondary benefits or watch them at least….

WestRiverrat's avatar

@food When you have a big change that is on the verge overwhelming you, try to break it up into several smaller changes. Then you will not feel quite so overwhelmed with your problem.

It is easier to eat an apple one bite at a time than it is to try to swallow it whole.

food's avatar

Well, it´s a bit challenging when they´re a whole bunch of changes coming from different directions, especially when they start changing your usual sources of support; but yes, that´s good advice, westriverrat

food's avatar

iamthemob, I can tell you´re a real optimist!

Andreas's avatar

@WestRiverrat I have been called an optimistic pessimist. I expect and plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I think this is the wisest course for any of us to take: one I hope I can take.

downtide's avatar

There’s one thing better than expecting the worst and hoping for the best. That’s expecting the worst and working for the best. One thing I’ve learned, and the one thing that’s caused my life to turn around and be more optimistic than pessimistic, is to realise that nothing happens that can’t be made somehow better with a bit of effort.

augustlan's avatar

I’ve been called an ‘idealist’ (and isn’t that the ultimate optimist?) too many times to count… but I’m also extremely realistic. I see clearly what is, but realize that it needn’t always be that way. If there were no optimists or idealists… nothing would ever change for the better! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

When I find myself overwhelmed, or drowning in negativity (hey, it happens), I basically remind myself that this too shall pass. I just hold on tight until it does. Sometimes, I have a panic attack or two during the wait.

food's avatar

nice thought, downtide! Augustian, it´s not hard to believe that you are also a realist at the same time if you get panic attacks…
Have you ever been so optimistic that you´re the only one that believes in a cause, and other people think you´re the only one that looks at a glass half full, whereas others don´t think that half full glass is worth a thing?

bookish1's avatar

I find this very difficult. I know I’m a pessimist, which strikes me as natural considering that I was diagnosed with a life-altering/shortening disease at the age of 4 and had a pretty effed up childhood. I am also, somehow, an idealist, because I love people and want to believe in them, but the pessimism leads me more than the idealism.

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