Why optimism is practical

I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic. The other day, an engineer asked me for an estimate to complete a document. I told him I would have it ready the next day. He was puzzled. “Are you sure you can really finish it that quickly?” I assured him I could. Not only did I finish the document when I promised, I even finished it early.

This is an example of why I believe optimism is not simply rootless pie-in-the-sky idealism. Optimism is practical. When you believe you can do something, you are motivated to set aside the time and gather the resources necessary to achieve your goal. Here are reasons why optimism is practical and necessary for success.

You are open to possibilities.

The first step in achieving a goal is seeing what is possible. An optimist then looks for all the ways that can make it achievable. The problem with pessimists is that they start throwing out ideas before they can prove they are unworkable. An optimist replies, “Well, let’s try it out anyway and see if it really works or not.” If it does, everyone is happy. If it doesn’t…

You can handle setbacks.

An optimist looks at setbacks the same way Thomas Edison did, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Pessimists see a setback as a reason to give up, while optimists see it as a normal part of working towards goals. Before you can find what works, you have to eliminate all the things that don’t. To use another Edison quote, “Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”

You see the big picture.

The reason why optimists don’t get derailed by setbacks is that they see the big picture. Their vision of their ultimate goal carries them through momentary setbacks. It also carries them through momentary successes. Small victories can be risky as well because that’s when people congratulate themselves too much, become complacent, lose focus, and ultimately fail to reach their goals. Optimists are encouraged by success, but they see it — as they do failure — as just a step towards something greater.

You enjoy what you do, so you do it better.

Common sense — back by scientific study — proves that when you enjoy what you do, you will be more productive. That enjoyment comes from your optimism. When you believe what you are doing will take you to your ultimate goal — even if what you’re doing is unpleasant or unappreciated — you will find the enjoyment in that task and do it well. You can endure all sorts of difficult jobs, miserable bosses, and harsh critics because they are just challenges on your way to your ultimate success.

Optimism is the fuel that drives you through hardship and helps you avoid distractions and discouragement so you can have the life you can enjoy. Optimism isn’t pie in the sky. It what enables you to climb up and take your piece.