What It Really Means to Be an Optimist
You've heard the old saw that "a pessimist sees the glass as half empty while the optimist sees the glass as half full." That's a stupid comparison.
Defined that way, optimism means giving your life experience a positive emotional spin while pessimism entails giving it a correspondingly negative spin.
If the only difference between optimism and pessimism is your emotional perception, it doesn't really matter which viewpoint you have. "It's half full, and I'm happy about that" isn't much better than "It's half empty, and I'm bummed about that." They're both a passive acceptance of the situation.
As I see it, the true difference between being an optimist and a pessimist isn't emotional spin; it's the belief that you can, should, and will take action to change things.
A true optimist sees things as they are, visualizes how they might become better, and then takes action to make them so.
A true pessimist sees things negatively from the start, expects things to get worse, and can barely summon the energy to prevent disaster.
In other words, a pessimist stares at a half-empty glass and mutters, "Why me?" while an optimist sees the same glass and says, "I'm gonna add some ice and drink that sucker."
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GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.