When I was teaching several years ago, I picked up the nickname “Mary Poppins”. At the time I thought it was very endearing and it fueled my desire to remain positive no matter what. After all, I was living out my passion of encouraging and helping others. Fast forward to several years later and I have learnt that this push towards positivity that we are constantly barraged with may not be such a good idea after all. In fact, I have learnt it is okay, actually more than okay, to feel down, disappointed, angry, frustrated, pessimistic, realistic… etc. In actual fact, what we need is a healthy dose of positive and negative thinking. Let me explain my thoughts a bit more …
Hal Lindsey once said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air… but only for one second without hope.” I agree with this statement wholeheartedly and live my life as a self-confessed optimist (hence the Mary Poppins nickname). I often talk about HOPE as “Having Only Positive Expectations.” Being hopeful gives me energy, pushes me out of my comfort zone and perceived limitations, as well as helps me navigate difficult circumstances and failure. The problem is, if we push to stay in super positivity, and an optimistic mode all the time with little regard for reality, often called “irrational optimism”, we risk feeling bad about ourselves when we don’t feel quite so positive.
In addition, we may alienate others when they are feeling pessimistic and sad. Even more serious is how we are in our professional roles. For example, as business managers or entrepreneurs we may become overconfident of our own abilities or our business’s abilities. This could result in decisions being made on limited information or thought processes, and little regard to potential risks and how to mitigate them, which may have dire consequences. In addition, we may sugarcoat the present, and be a little delusional where our mindset “hangs out” in the “what could be” space instead of the “what is” space. This can result in us not taking needed action or facing day to day realities. Our positivity can be hindering.
The Reality is Real
The reality of life is that it is like a toll road – sometimes you play and sometimes you pay. I think we need to be aware of this optimism bias and pair our hopeful, optimistic way of looking at our business, our abilities, the abilities of our loved ones, employees and colleagues, with a healthy dose of reality, hard evidence and common sense. Yes, “a spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down”, but sometimes rational, realistic cold hard evidence grounded in reality in equal dose is needed!
If the term “irrational optimist” describes you and you would like to be more of a “rational optimist”, reach out for help. As a Valueneurs Mentor Coach, I can assist in this area using an evidence-based approach. Together we can move forward in realistic positivity.