How does being an optimist, a pessimist or a realist effect your happiness?

What do you classify yourself as? Are you a pessimist, an optimist, or a realist? Part of my husband’s change in jobs last January was to get away from a work environment in which there was a lot of negativity. This included cynical attitudes, disparaging remarks, and general lack of support for the department from administration.  As one can imagine, being around negativity breeds negativity.  Negativity at work spills over into negativity at home. We have had many conversations over the last few years about the need for both of us to be less negative.

In the same vein, over time, I felt myself becoming a more negative person. I feel that part of the reason this occurred was that I tried to “fix” some larger issues that existed in our community. The process of fixing the issues was like fighting city hall and included many things related to belief systems, what people valued, and wanting equity for all students.  It also included my belief in student centeredness, which some might ascribe to verbally, but fail to act in such a way that validates what they said.  It was draining. The lack of my ability to be an agent of change, led to some negativity on my part.  I realized this, did not care for it, and took actions to change. Part of the change has been to read several books this summer on finding joy. They’ve been enlightening and over the last few months, the negativity has lifted in our home. If you are interested in what I read, the titles and some brief review can be found in an earlier blog. I have to tell you that it did take a concentrated effort on the part of myself and my spouse.

My husband now works with a manager who is very much an optimist. She sees the glass almost full (not even half) most of the time! She sees the good in people, not the bad. She exudes positivity in work and most probably in life, as whole. Much the same as the negativity and pessimism rubbing off, the optimism and happiness with life does as well when you are around joyful minded people. It has been interesting to watch the shift in attitude – almost like a mini-social science experiment! And while, my husband is not an optimist, he has shifted away from cynicism. As for myself, I kept reading. And, more importantly, I thought about what I said before I said it and watched my tone. I expected less, talked less, and appreciated more. I let my appreciation show – even for the little things.

One of Rubin’s Happiness Project tenants is:  “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” (Rubin, 2015, pg. 297)  I found it to be great advice!

However, yesterday, I fell into the same old unattractive, complaining mess, that I have exhibited in the past. Since I had not been acting negative, being short and snappish, demanding, or having an impatient tone, I  noted when I fell back into this late last night when I discovered laundry needed to be done at 10:30 p.m. for my son’s soccer training camp t-shirts. Let it be said that he has been doing his own laundry this summer, and essentially this was “his” problem – he did throw the wash in, but only after I had to remove my load from the dryer and transfer another one of my loads from the washer. So, unfortunately, it involved me, as well, just at the time I was getting ready for bed!  I know there were multiple ways of handing this and don’t really need someone to point that out but it was this event that pushed the negativity that had been growing over the course of the day into a full boil.

While I laid on the couch finishing Rubin’s book (I was not sleepy anymore and felt the need to reclaim some advice on happiness), it struck me that more was going on here than a late load of laundry or over-scheduled soccer practice in 90 degree heat.  Summer grad courses end Friday, my second son goes off to college on Friday, the garden at school needs weeding (every day),  registration needs to take place for new courses, a new school year looms ahead, and more. It is a time of transition and that seems to bring out negativity in me. After a lot of self-reflection, I think the negativity stems from being anxious about all the changes.

Well, we can’t be perfect.  I know the changes are part of life – a good life.  My true self is neither being a pessimist nor an optimist. It is being a realist. So, that means dealing with life changes in the best way possible. And, being grateful my children are active, intelligent, hardworking individuals helps me to put a t-shirt that needs washing at 10:30 at night in perspective. Yesterday was yesterday. Today, I’m going to take Rubin’s sage advice and be “a little more happier” not only for me but for everyone else.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday, which is hosted by TwoWritingTeacher’s on their blog. It is a wonderful community of supportive writers each sharing a “slice” of writing about their life. I am grateful to be a participant in such a group! 

8 Thoughts

  1. I’m also a fan of Gretchen Rubin and the Happiness Project. Have you been listening to hear podcast? It’s also very good. This summer I read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and I’m loving her message of empowerment and happiness. I have regular interactions with a person who is a pessimist and often negative. It’s just no way to live. I think starting with gratitude always helps. I enjoyed your post!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comments. Yes, I listen to her podcast while I am at the YMCA on the treadmill! It is enjoyable. I’ll have to look into the book you suggested, too! I do see how gratitude fits into being happy and trying to remember to be grateful for all those little thinks in life that we tend to over look or take for granted. Life is too short not to do that!

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  2. I’m glad that you were able to step back and recognize where the anxiety was coming from, since it sounds like you’ve managed to find a strong source of happiness in your new approach to life. Keep on going!

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  3. A thought-provoking post, as ever. I think I tend to be very optimistic, but I do feel drained if other people don’t share this! I sometimes feel like I am being the radiator for others, and this can get exhausting, and then I become a drain too!

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    1. Ha! Ruben talks about this in her book, The Happiness Project. People responded to a post on her blog about how draining it was to be “The” optimist….that others suck the emotion/attitude off of you and you end up feeling drained! You described it perfectly! That is so hard! I would imagine you’d almost feel like protecting yourself in some way so that doesn’t happen!

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