Don’t Let Optimism Be The Death of You

I was telling my wife a story the other day, and she said something that hit me hard. She said, “you are so much more realistic about life than when I first met you.” The optimist in me wanted to jump down her throat for a second, but I know deep down this is the best thing my wife has said to me in a while.

I am a natural optimist, and when people are pessimistic about life, it just bugs the crap out of me. I was made to see the positive and always see the good in even horrible situations. I grew up believing that it was my optimism that would save me. It was my optimism that would make me successful because I could always keep hope when others have lost it.

As I exited college, I realized that my strength was what was killing me. Advantages tend to work like that. We love what we are good at so much that we get blindsided by how it is killing us slowly.

This piece is for those who are optimistic beyond belief, and they think that it is doing great things. What we need more than ever in this world are rational thinkers. I am in no way encouraging pessimism because it is just too draining to be around a pessimistic person. REAL THINKING brings REAL RESULTS.

How Optimistic Thinking Can Get You Killed

It’s Risky

When you’re always optimistic, you will be riskier. I had to learn this the hard way through entrepreneurial failure. Just because you are risk adverse does not mean you don’t need to learn to manage risk.

When you can look in the mirror and be REAL about your current situation you can better manage the risks that you are going to take with life.

It Often Has No Game Plan

Optimism can leave you with no game plan; no real plan B. Most athletes don’t know what they would do if they got hurt because they are so optimistically positive that they will stay healthy.

Maybe you don’t have a plan of what will happen if you DON’T get the job or if he/she does break up with you.

I lived a lot of my life never expecting anything bad to happen because I was optimistic and then guess what happened? Bad things happened to me and I was left broken.

Now I still expect the best but I actually prepare myself for the worst case scenario. Like that’s not just some stuff you just say, though! You have to think, “what will I do if this happens” and you create a game plan for it.

If you’re optimistic like me, you’re probably telling yourself right now that I am so pessimistic, and that is just the point of this article. It’s not pessimistic. If you expect things to be bad, and you complain to others about it, that is pessimistic. Prepare for the events in your life to be awful, it shows that you have what it takes to be a leader.

It Gives You No Street Cred

Do you want to follow someone who always says it’s going to be sunny yet it rains every day? Or would you follow someone who always tells you to pack an umbrella and boots even though it is sunny out?

Street cred goes to the prepared. You can talk and spread all of the power of positive thinking stuff that you want but eventually it is going to rain, and it is going to rain hard.

If you sincerely want to be seen as a leader, you’re going to have to prove that you can be a realistic thinker.

It Feeds Disappointment

You see optimism at its finest whenever you see a new product or business launch. Our optimism goes into overdrive during these moments. You see great things in the future, and you have already mentally started to spend the money you think you will make. The only problem is things don’t happen the way you thought they would.

Not reaching expectations are in no way a death sentence, but for an optimistic person it is taken like one. The reason for this is because the expectation was set so high, but there was never a plan for what will happen if things don’t go to plan.

The optimistic mind is never ready for things not to go well, so it is left extremely disappointed. When you approach things, and you’re realistic about the result you expect to see, and you create plans for many different scenarios, results don’ shake you to your foundation.

It Moves on Quickly

For me, this has been my killer by far. When I played football, I usually played Defensive Back and anyone who knows football knows you need a short memory because mistakes can often come.

An NFL defensive back getting beat on a play

This same mindset hurt when it came to accomplishing goals I had set. The reason is that my optimistic mind has always told me if something does work don’t worry because something else will. I can jump from city to city, job to job, start different companies and do all that, but it just represents how immature my optimistic mind was.

This is where my wife yet again has saved me and taught me so much. The goal should be to treat things like a marriage. Marriage is meant to last a long time, marriage is expected to see difficulties, it is not always exciting but when you stick with it, you end up with something beautiful that makes you proud. The way I approach marriage is so realistic, and because of that I never expect more of my wife than I expect from myself.

If you want something, you can’t move on quickly. If you want something, you have to stick with it for the long run. Be real about how long it will take you to accomplish what you want and then don’t stop fighting until you get it.

My wife and I (photo by Lauren Lee)

How to Actually Be More Realistic Love Truth

The truth hurts and the truth can be scary. Optimistic minds can get good at running from the truth. Don’t allow yourself to do this. The truth is where you are right now. The better you understand the truth, the easier it is to create a new reality.

Think Through The Pros and Cons

The more you can write out the pros and cons the easier it is for you to start to appreciate the truth. Every single situation has negatives to it.

Create the Worst Case Scenarios

Planning for the worst case scenarios can almost make you feel unstoppable. When you can create a realistic plan for what you will do if things don’t go well at all, you will be miles ahead of your optimistic thinking.

Remember, you can still expect the best, but this is the place where you prepare for the worst. You don’t ever want to give life the opportunity to catch you off guard.

Align Thinking With Resources

When optimistic thinking kicks in, it rarely evaluates the resources that you have at the moment. You could be expecting to get a raise, but the company that you work for may not have the resources to do it. This means that your optimistic thinking is not in line with the resources. It is much more realistic for you to think about looking for a new job that maybe does have the resources in line with your thinking.

Time to Get Real

It’s not that being optimistic is bad, it just needs to be mixed with a healthy dose of reality. I have heard from many people that I am one of the most optimistic people that they know. This statement used to make me puff my chest out, but now my eyes are open to the weaknesses of optimism. For those of you who also love your optimistic self, just make sure that you keep it in check with reality and truth.