Both Sides of the Coin

This is part 5 in a series on positive and negative thinking. To start at the beginning, click here.

Let’s do a brief recap to start things off, shall we? On Tuesday, we talked a little about how peak performance could come from either optimism or pessimism, and how that concept doesn’t fit into a traditional success strategy. Wednesday, we visualized what both optimism and pessimism traditionally look like, and how sometimes our traditional thinking is a little off the mark. Thursday we went over optimism and its usefulness in a success strategy, and Friday we did the same for pessimism. Today, we’re going to talk about keeping the scales level.

I don’t really think I need to cover too much on the extremes of pessimism. We’re regularly fed what they look like in sitcoms and cartoons. It’s self defeat, to give up before you’ve given effort. It’s having so much anxiety over what could go wrong that you never give it the chance to go right. My good friend Vince has a saying: “Trying is the first step to failure.” His cynicism is ironic, considering he’s one of the most driven people I know. That’s what characterizes his wit, and always has. But that saying is exactly what the extreme of pessimism looks like.

The extremes of optimism, on the other hand, are a little harder to spot. You see, the toxic optimist isn’t obvious unless you’ve spent a lot of time with him. He’s the guy that isn’t grounded in reality, almost as if he has no concept that bad things can even happen. It’s not that he doesn’t care, that he’s so nonchalant about things that bad stuff doesn’t bother him or create anxiety for him. He literally has no clue that things can go wrong, or at least comes across that way. Toxic optimism is a refusal to accept that a “plan B” may be necessary.

“There’s no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A.”

― Will Smith

If you’re familiar with Will Smith’s story, you may think that I consider his thoughts on not having a backup plan to be foolish, or toxic. In fact, there are lots of successful people that will tell you that a backup plan just gets in the way. These people are not toxic optimists. Having no backup plan is a way of letting anxiety drive you. It’s a way of telling yourself that failure is not an option because there is no path but the one you’ve chosen. In my opinion, it’s fueled by a combination of optimism and pessimism, which is what you need to fuel your life properly.

So here’s the meat. Optimism lets you know that you are capable of achieving the goal that you’ve set yourself after. It’s the belief that the life you want is possible to obtain. Pessimism is the insight that lets you plot the course. It identifies roadblocks and obstacles and helps you develop the plan to navigate around them effectively so they can’t possibly stand on your way. Optimism is the vehicle, and pessimism is the GPS.

When they get out of balance, you’ve got yourself a problem, and failure is inevitable. When they’re held in balance, however, the life you seek is yours.

Now go be successful!

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.