You Might be Right – the Glass is Half Empty – Now What

A friend texted, “I think of myself as more of a doomsday preparer.” I texted back, “Ahh! The advantage of pessimism is preparation.” Are there more?

Pessimism is, “An inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome.”

3 advantages of half-empty thinking:

#1. Pessimists don’t fail as often as optimists.

Optimists believe the Universe conspires to help us. Pessimists know the Universe is merciless at best.

An optimist is a naïve pessimist who hasn’t experienced the real world.

Pessimist’s motto: The more things you try – the more frequently you fail.

Unrealistic optimists underestimate difficulties. If you ask me, unrealistic optimists are a danger to teams.

#2. Pessimists aren’t disappointed as often as optimists. Pessimists believe…

Clouds don’t have a silver lining. People don’t always do the right thing. Hard work doesn’t always pay off. And sincerity isn’t fairy dust.

You can be completely sincere and completely wrong.

The joy of pessimism is, “See! I told you so.”

It turns out that imagining a positive future drains energy. Perhaps it’s useful to consider what might go wrong.

#3. Pessimists prepare for negative events.

Choose defensive pessimism over unrealistic optimism.

You need enough pessimism to anticipate difficulties and enough optimism to keep moving forward. (With great caution, of course.)

Extreme pessimists use one possible negative to reject an acceptable solution. Perhaps you need enough optimism to run a short-term pilot program that doesn’t cost too much.

5 advantages of half-full thinking:

Christine Carter writes that optimists are…

  1. More successful in school, at work, and in athletics
  2. Healthier and live longer
  3. More satisfied with their marriages
  4. Less likely to suffer from depression
  5. Less anxious


Avoiding failure is helpful. But if you do fail, learn.

How might leaders navigate tensions between optimism and pessimism?

Bonus material:

A Point of View: The advantages of pessimism (BBC)

The Upside of Pessimism (The Atlantic)

The Benefits of Optimism (Berkeley)

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