A Different Perspective on “Pessimism”

The idea of pessimism can be incredible. I would say it is unanimously considered to be a “negative” trait in a person should they be a pessimist.

The traditional definition of pessimism is a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in people and the future. Wow that sounds terrible.

I must respectfully disagree. Now, I will attempt to convince you as to why I am not a negative Nancy.

A typical way to approach another is to expect the absolute most of them. Particularly in colleagues, family members, friends and even strangers. People should do their jobs well (we say), family members should treat us with care and respect (we say), friends should honor their commitments and be reliable and truthful (we say), and even strangers, we expect and assume a level of kindness and politeness from them.

Although this is a very optimistic outlook on our brothers and sisters, it is oddly setting us up for anger, disappointment and frustration. Colleagues make mistakes. Family members disrespect us. Friends flake out and hurt our feelings. Strangers are rude. We know this happens, and it happens ALL the time.

What if we decided to take a different outlook.

What if we expected our colleagues to make mistakes. Anticipated family members making rude and disrespectful statements. What if we assumed friends would bail out on dinner plans, and had an expectation that strangers were rude and unfriendly. Yes, this seems bleak to have these expectations of others, but the interesting twist is your emotional surprise when they exceed expectations. You are setting yourself up to be overjoyed with your colleague’s level of work ethic. Thrilled that a family member treated you with care and respect. Delighted when friends follow through on their commitments, and ultimately flattered when a stranger greets you warmly.

Essentially, you are pleasantly surprised when humanity exceeds your expectations, and you are not disappointed when they act up and make mistakes, like everyone does.

I would say the most important expectation is the one you set for yourself, due to the fact that your actions and decisions are entirely within your control. What you do, what you say, how you respond and react are all choices over which you have control. Set the bar VERY high for yourself. Be incredibly kind, overly delightful, have an indomitable work ethic, and a unwavering moral compass.

Expect the status quo from others, and help them grow and improve over time.  If there is a chance to influence or change a person’s poor mindset or attitude—with a conversation, with your own actions, with a little more context or explanation on your end—then take it. But if there isn’t, accept this person as they are. Don’t hate the haterDon’t throw more time after a lost cause. Our job is tough enough already. We don’t have time to think about what other people are thinking, even if it’s about us.

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