Every day you wake up in the morning and you put on a pair of glasses (or maybe contact lenses). I am not talking about the glasses that correct your vision; I am talking about the glasses that determine how you see the world.
Your habits, experiences, mood and emotions determine how you see the world. There are no two people that will see the world exactly the same and I don’t think there is a person who can look at the world completely impartially. Just a simple example: take a look at this square. What color is it?
Some of you will see it as green, the others will see it as light green, somebody else might consider it puke-green or his/her-first-car-green. Imagine how many shades we can create for our lives and world around us! This vision influences the quality of our life, our happiness, success and of course life balance.
There are usually four types of glasses that all of us put on in lives. I am pretty sure that you are familiar with all of them. I am going to use a simple situation to illustrate how those glasses will affect us. The situation is “It is sunny and warm and you want to go running outside.”
Pessimism (negative thinking)
It’s hot again, I can’t even breathe outside and I am so not going running today … again. Why does it always happen to me?
Optimism (positive thinking)
Hooray! It’s sunny and warm and great and awesome! WOW! I am getting my sneakers on and I am on my way!
Realism. I do not think that there is such thing as true realism because it would mean that your emotions and mood have absolutely no influence at what you think. I distinguish positive realism and negative realism. 3a. Positive realism
It is hot and sunny outside however if I go running right now I might overheat or get burnt. I’d rather wait a few hours when the sun starts getting down and I will be able to enjoy a better and safer run. 3b. Negative realism
It is hot and sunny but I can’t go running right now because it is too hot and the sun is too strong. I could go running in a couple of hours but I know that I will be busy then because I have so much on me. I wish I just had more time in life (Sigh!).
Optimism and positive thinking are highly praised today but I don’t think that they are always the best answer. I personally believe that positive realism is the best way to look at the world. Why?
What’s the problem with positive thinking?
Optimists tend to believe that positive events happen in their lives more often than negative ones (which is not exactly true). This thinking pattern can keep you from seeing trouble when it is just ahead of you or changing your direction when something is not working out in life.
I have a few friends who are extremely positive and optimistic. They are absolute fountains of joy and happiness however most of their business endeavors and even relationships do not work out. They misjudge people around them and they get burnt when those people turn out to be not as good as they thought they were. Their business ideas fall apart because they do not consider all the facts and numbers as well as the actual steps that are necessary in order to make that business successful. They hold on to their optimistic beliefs until it is too late to change something and then they get into trouble.
What is the power of positive realism?
When you combine positivity and realism you tend to see what is really going on around you but you choose to concentrate on the positive outcomes. You still acknowledge the fact that something might go wrong but you don’t get stuck on it (as opposed to negative realism). You accept it, you plan for it and you move on towards your positive future.
We all know that bad times happen in life and those times are actually vitally important for us. They build our character, they develop compassion and sympathy in us, they help us grow and see beyond what is familiar to us and they create a perfect counterbalance for all the positive events in our lives. I would never want to live a life that is filled only with positive stuff because then I would be too spoiled and I would not be able to appreciate my life as much as I do now.
This is the reason why positive realism is so strong. Even when you go through difficult times you tend to see something good in them, when you start something new you are open to both results, you are cautious and yet open, you are goal-oriented and yet flexible.
How do you master the art of positive realism?
It is really simple:
Dream big but break those goals into realistic steps.
Be grateful for the good and the bad in your life.
Be flexible and accept what is coming into your life.