I never really watched Winnie the Pooh as a child, so it wasn’t until I became a parent that I became a cartoon watcher again. One day, as I watched an episode of Winnie The Pooh with my children, I jokingly asked my husband, “Has Eeyore always been so negative?”.
He is gloomy. He is sad. He offers little encouragement for others. In other words, he is a pessimist. According to dictionary.com, a pessimist is a person who habitually sees or anticipates the worst. A person disposed to be gloomy. Do these attributes describe you? Is it difficult for you to find optimism in situations?
In other words,
Are you an Eeyore?
[box] “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” ~Helen Keller [/box]
To find out if you lean towards optimism or pessimism, take a minute to think about the following questions:
- Do you see the glass 1/2 empty?
- Are you ever surprised at how horrible people can act?
- Do you label others as naive or wet behind the ears because they don’t see things the way you do?
- Do you expect negative all the time?
- Do you talk people out of their ideas?
- Do you speak fluent Murphy’s law?
- Do you correctly guess exactly how bad a situation will turn out?
If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, you might be a pessimist. You could take a full test to find out here.
Pessimists are energy drainers. Being negative will make people stop seeking you out for your expertise. Even if you are knowledgeable, given the choice, people will choose to get their information from a more positive source. Have you ever noticed how Eeyore is not a regular character in Winnie the Pooh story lines?
[box] An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~Bill Vaughan[/box]
Here are 4 ways to be more optimistic:
1. Know your no’s.
Awareness is always the first battle. You have to know how often and under what circumstances you are usually negative. Pessimism can be so ingrained that you don’t realize you are doing it. Ask for feedback. Record how many times you expect a situation to end poorly.
2. Make a plan and tell someone.
In the movie, Yes Man, Jim Carrey, a proud pessimist, goes on a year long journey where he says “yes” to every opportunity. You may not want or need to take it that far but you do need a plan. You also need accountability. Team up with a fellow pessimist or an encouraging friend and enter into an accountability agreement. Accountability partners don’t have to be boring. You could have fun with it. For instance, you could do your own “Quarter Quell”.
Quarter Quell: Get a roll of quarters every week. Get a small piggy bank. Each time you or your accountability partner catches you being negative you put a quarter in the bank. Then donate that money to a charity.
3. Plot the positive.
List three ways that being positive will improve your communication with three specific people. Having a list of improvements can help motivate you to keep going.
4. Leverage your strengths.
There are many articles, like this one on LinkedIn, praising the positive side of pessimism. While I disagree that pessimism is positive, I do agree that pessimists inherently have a strength. Namely, they can see the flaws in a proposed plan. This is a great way to help optimists prepare or fortify a stance! Use that insight to come up with a plan that will work. If you think it isn’t going to work, offer a solution.
Communication is the key to moving from pessimism toward optimism. If you are a pessimist, your tone of voice, your self talk, your body language, and your word choice communicates your point of view. So when making the move toward optimism, it is a matter of changing what you communicate. When making the move toward optimism, and it will be a gradual move, changing your tone of voice, body language, and word choice will aid in your effort.
The good news is that inherent in the definition of pessimism is hope. A person who habitually sees the negative can learn to change habits to see the positive.
Read more resources on pessimism: