Realists Faring Better than Pessimists or Optimists

We frequently talk about people looking at half a glass of water. Pessimists see it as half empty. Optimists see it as half full. A realist sees a glass with some water. During this pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about how pessimists and optimists are handling the situation. But, scientists say that realists are handling it best.

You might think that optimists are always going to come out on top when it comes to feeling the happiest. However, an 18-year study has shown that realists have a stronger sense of long-term well-being. That’s because they make better choices over long periods. They set realistic goals and make thought out plans. They take disappointment in their stride, not expecting perfect results to begin with. That’s why, right now, they are faring better against COVID-19. Optimists expect things to work out for the best and don’t make plans to achieve it, expecting it to naturally happen. Pessimists also plan poorly and don’t take steps to have a happy outcome.

Optimists will see themselves as less susceptible to the risk of Covid-19 than others and are therefore less likely to take appropriate precautionary measures,” said study co-author David de Meza from the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Realists take measured risks based on the scientific understanding of the disease.”

This comes as good news to those of us who don’t go through life with a perpetual spring in our step. We’re so frequently told we have to look on the bright side all the time. This research shows that perpetual positivity doesn’t yield the best outcome. Optimism is not a magical power that delivers excellent results. Optimists tend to not save as much money for a rainy day and not plan for the worst-case scenario. Having a realistic plan, instead of expecting the worst is inevitable, or the best will just happen, makes you achieve more, safely.

Optimists tend to take blows harder because they blindside them. Pessimists spend a lot of time anticipating the worst and have a harder time being happy when things work out well. They dread whatever is coming next.

Just as optimists take too few precautions when it comes to COVID-19, pessimists may be taking too many, and making life harder for themselves. “Pessimists, on the other hand, may be tempted to never leave their houses or send their children to school again,” said Prof. de Meza when comparing them to optimists. “Neither strategy seems like a suitable recipe for well-being.”

Recently, people have been quoting Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Many have been using it to say that we can’t see the twists and turns ahead of us as the pandemic continues. Plans go out the window when the hits keep coming. Instead of blithely continuing on without a mask or staying inside 24/7, go outside safely. Make a plan for if you do get punched in the mouth, but don’t expect the hit to land.

Believing things will end poorly, or not impact you at all can be recipes for disaster. Remember, with precautions, you can enjoy your life — even in the midst of crisis.
July 09, 2020
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