By Welter Benicio
Image: Welter Benicio
I envy the incorruptible optimists with their rosy view of the world and frequent positive expectations for the outcomes of events they contemplate. They are not the majority in this world, but seem to live happier than the rest of us and it feels good to be around them. For most people optimism is not a frequent “state of mind”. Although positive expectations may result from their balanced analyses of facts and historical outcomes, most of the times they see low probabilities of success in the events, letting pessimism easily take over. Some are deemed, justly or not, spoilers of plans and ideas, the killjoys to be avoided.
In my professional life I have met a lot of people with bias to the negative and although I never assessed the relation of pessimism (or optimism) with any factor whatsoever, it seems that individuals with analytical logical minds tend to be caught in the traps of pessimism more often and are more risk averse than sometimes they should be. I myself have a tendency to look at the world through thick rational lenses and have, fortunately, had my quota of errors of judgment by changing what should have remained untouched, or the opposite, just to learn later on that my ominous expectations were wrong. But I also have seen dearest optimists making mistakes or stubbornly insisting on a flawed course of action just to learn latter on that they were blind and deaf to alerts and symptoms that would have saved them from disaster.
What to do then? How to avoid the mistakes caused by pessimism? To the disappointment of the reader I don’t have a recipe for the equilibrium in the decisions or for the development of a fail proof method of judgment, but I believe one can practice optimism and become more prone to make moves and bets that can change a life. If one can do that, he or she will be inclined to act more, to risk more and will therefore have more chances to be better off in any dimension of life. It all starts by knowing who you are and why you act (or do not) like you do. The steps are as follows:
1 – First and foremost be humble and accept that you, like anyone else, make mistakes;
2 – Determine how biased to the negative (pessimism) you are, if you are biased at all. In order to do that, you could use sincere feedback from others or perform an honest review of your frequent immediate reactions to propositions, new ideas and plans or to uncontrolled changes in the environment. Another way to do that is by reviewing your achievements in any area. If you have the feeling that a lot more could have been achieved if you had been bolder, than you probably didn’t risk as much as you should have and that can be an indication of a negative bias that paralyzes you most times;
3 – Now that you know that you are not an optimist, do a quick review of the significant errors of judgment made by you in the last 5 to 10 years that were caused by this bias and identify the root causes of these errors;
4 – At this point, you probably learned that some or all observations below apply to you:
You think you can control things more than you really can and that the variables you know you cannot control are given “negative values” when assessing the situation;
These negative values are given because you fear failure more than anything and therefore prefer to be on the safe side;
Despite your splendid ability to perceive people, you need to bet more on them, mainly on that person who failed before and whose credibility is low for you;
You always perform thorough in-depth analyses of the situations by considering relevant facts and data before decisions but thinks that intuition, an important element in the decision process, is for poets;
You consistently underestimate your power of influence and your ability to “help” things get where they should end;
You are a rational being, but certainly need more faith in people, in yourself and in some sort of superior order in our lives.
Now that you have completed the review, you are ready to start practicing optimism. After you have internalized what you learned about yourself, the ability to hope for the best will come naturally to you. This ability, combined with realistic assessments, will increase your chances of success. Good luck!