How to Rise Above Pessimism and Lead Optimistically
If you’re a pessimist, the only thing worse than dying young is living a long miserable life.
Pessimistic leaders focus on faults and weaknesses.
Success with people requires optimism.
Think of optimism as a skill, not a disposition.
Choose optimism over pessimism. Optimists honor progress, affirm strength, and celebrate good. Pessimists notice shortcomings, complain about things they can’t change, and anticipate bad.
7 advantages of optimism:
- Better health.
- Longer life.
- Richer relationships.
- Greater achievement.
- Less stress.
- Emotional health.
When seeing bad is good:
Optimism is usually the best approach, but pessimism isn’t always bad.
Pessimism is useful in high risk situations. You don’t want your brain surgeon saying, “Let’s try it and see what happens.”
You want airplane pilots assuming the worst, not the best.
The upside of pessimism:
- Lower expectations. (Less disappointment.)
- Preparing for the worst, as long as you don’t catastrophize everything.
- Attention to detail.
The downside of pessimism:
Successful leaders have the gift of strengthfinding, not faultfinding.
- Destroy morale.
- Demotivate teams.
- Create caution.
- Motivate blaming.
Your team is better without you if you’re a faultfinding pessimist.
A lunchtime challenge:
I challenge you to only notice good until lunch. No faultfinding, complaining, or finger-pointing allowed. None!
- If you’re a diehard pessimist, think of how much worse things could be and be thankful they aren’t that bad.
- Don’t hide in your office until after lunch! (Cowardice)
- Silence isn’t optimism. Sometimes silence is a good thing. If you’re a negative leader, your silence will help your team feel better. But for this challenge, you must practice optimistic speech.
- Ask an optimist for suggestions if you can’t think of anything good to say.
- Expect people to be shocked, but don’t let that deter you.
What concerns you about optimistic leadership?
How might leaders develop the skill of optimism?
“The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything.” Hegel
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Jesus
To find fault is easy; to do better may be difficult. Plutarch
Don’t find fault, find a remedy, anybody can complain. Henry Ford
Your Habit of Pointing Out Other People’s Faults Is Ruining Your Life (Medium)
Dan–I love your statement–“That successful leaders have the gift of strengthfinding, not faultfinding.”
Too much optimism can be is bad as too little optimism.
I like the idea of “realistic optimism.” Be positive and look for the best but balance that with facing reality and being realistic.
Thanks Paul. I wrote this because I have the gift of faultfinding. 🙂
Blind optimism is dangerous.
I grew up on optimism. My Maternal Grandmother Elizabeth lived thru the depression and found strong faith in her Church and believing in God and Jesus. Even more notable because she was a child of the 1920s and 30s she was a proponent of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and his Positive Thinking Mantra. She would always have Guideposts Magazine sitting around for me to read and all of Peale’s books. She jumped started my optimistic look on life and I have not lost it.
We are hardwired to identify danger, it’s an evolutionary trait. it is what has kept us alive as a species. I find that being aware of this is the first step, for me anyway, in moving past that to seeing possibilities and progress. As you said in an earlier reply “blind optimism is dangerous”. I had a new manager look at me one day and say “sometimes you just have to have faith in the system”. His predecessor had been rather unceremoniously fired and the company was in chaos. That was the end of the conversation for me and a major blow to the respect that I was trying to have for him. Now, many years later, I still have to work to find the positives. I’ll work up to the Lunch Time Challenge. I’ll start with breakfast.
“The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise”
-Henry David Thoreau
Lesson: Don’t be the fault-finder 😉
In most aspects of life, I believe optimism is truly the way to go. Most people like being around optimistic, happy, and positive people. It is an absolute emotional drain hanging around negative or pessimistic individuals. Although we should be well balanced in our approach to optimism and pessimism, I think having a healthy dose of optimism helps to get through most difficult life situations. Pessimistic individuals may proclaim they are preparing for the worst with their negative outlook, but I often times find they have been shattered by the realities of life and have become negative as a result of it. From a leadership standpoint, I believe optimism is a fantastic way to increase morale in a team and celebrate even small successes a team may have. By focusing on good rather than bad, this helps the mind to shift to see positive and increase success. I firmly believe negativity does not breed success; it merely squanders potential opportunities and leads to further failure. A better way to handle disappointments in life is by having a realistic, rather than pessimistic, attitude. Nothing good comes out of pessimism but having a realistic viewpoint helps to deal with catastrophic events. In my personal life, I have found that even during the darkest days when I have had a positive and optimistic attitude, I have been able to effectively deal with whatever life throws at me.