Monday, May 16, 2016

The "Opt" in Optimism

I mentioned I've been trying to approach my life with more optimism. Its been challenging, since its not my natural inclination. As soon as I hear of an idea or plan, I immediately think of all the many many ways it could go wrong. I've always thought this way, and my medical & scientific training have only reinforced the pattern. Prepare for the worst, diligently discuss and record potential adverse effects, follow up your great ideas and results with an exhaustive less of all potential "pitfalls"and "limitations" that render them practically useless. For obvious reasons, this is a necessary and appreciated skill at work. At home, however, its...well...a downer.

I don't think preparing for life's misadventures is necessarily wrong. In fact the very people who demean and denounce my propensity to consider the negative (ahem, my husband) are often quite grateful that I DID pack an extra change of clothing for children & adults in our carry-ons, called the doctor for a pre-vacation appointment in case the mild fever became a full-blown ear infection the day we were scheduled to leave, or padded our bank account for an exceptionally rainy day.

I used to believe that optimism/pessimism were inborn, unchangeable personality traits. But I've come to realize that, like everything else, optimism can be a choice. I may not be able to prevent my mind from automatically running through the list of potential negative events. But I can temper it with the ultimate knowledge that most of the time everything will be OK.  I do this at work all the time. Yes, these bad things may happen, but you are probably going to be fine (and here is the data). Yes, these results may end up completely meaningless but I really believe the study is worth doing (and here is the data). I need to be better about doing it in my own life, and using it to convince MYSELF to say yes, to get excited, and to be more a ray of sunshine than the rain on the parade.

Summer is apparently coming, temperature in the 30s this morning notwithstanding. I'm going to practice saying yes, and saying it with enthusiasm (but packing the band aids and emergency snacks anyways).


  1. This is timely for me, as I prepare to change jobs and completely change our way of life. I am typically a pessimist as well, and all the what-ifs that have been going through my head are bound to make me crazy. I've been trying to counter my negativity with thoughts of all the good that could come from this change, but it really is tough to change those old patterns. Maybe it's time to embrace realism- like you said, expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

  2. lol. This is how we finally ended up going on a real vacation. I finally said "f$$$ it" even if it's bad it will be an adventure and just booked the damn tickets. I think the rest of my life could use more of the same attitude. Haha we'll see.

  3. God bless the pessimists for they hath provided the back up systems.

    Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

    These platitudes brought to you by a pessimistic optimist.

  4. I think that pessimists prepare better. :) You can choose optimism, while also being the most prepared person ... maybe not such a bad approach? (I confess: I'm Little Miss Negativity around here. Working on it.)

  5. Optimists are annoying. They wake me up with their cheerful chirping. *grumble*