The Fog of Optimism


The other morning I woke up to fog that was so dense, it looked as if it were raining. The fog reminded me of the denial factor of absolute positive thinking: when a thick fog bank comes in, we often don’t know where we are.  In many ways, that is what denial and the fog of optimism do, since they disorient us, cause us to be confused, and go around in circles trying to figure out who we really are and where we can find a meaningful life.

When we are in denial, we are living in the fog of delusional optimism which causes us to falsely believe there is such a thing as mental “pixy dust” or that by just wishing for something, it will magically make it happen. The positive projection and false positive image created by absolute positive thinking cause us to have a Pollyanna perspective which filters reality by allowing us to only be able to see through rose–colored glasses.  The denial factor of delusional optimism causes us to be unrealistic and oblivious to things that are obvious to other people.

Conversely, when people’s lives are unconsciously based on repressed and denied negativity, this causes them to be pessimistic. Pessimists imagine and fear the worst. They assume that if they think negatively, they will be prepared and never be disappointed.

Burning Off the Fog of Delusional Optimism

An analogy of awareness is the sun burning off the fog. As it often takes time for the sun to clear away the murkiness of the fog, in the same way it takes time for our awareness to penetrate years of accumulated denial. Awareness and realism are interconnected. The nature of denial is to deny the facts, while the nature of realism is to face the facts.

A Third Alternative: Realistic Optimism

Many people think they only have two choices: pessimism or optimism. Realistic optimism offers a third alternative.

A realistic perspective helps us be aware of what can possibly go wrong, which enhances our chances for success. A realistic perspective fosters our taking a knowledge based approach that allows us to be aware of the truth of situations and who we really are underneath the illusionary world of absolute positive thinking. It also counterbalances wishful thinking by helping us make effective decisions, since they are made with all of the facts.

Absolute positive thinking masquerades as Pollyanna Optimism which is a view of life that expects positive outcomes without regard for the environment we are in or for the need to have a Plan B. Pollyanna Optimism does not have us consider the possibilities of things not working out as planned.

Balanced thinking integrates realism with optimism. When optimism and realism are integrated, wise decisions are made by expecting the best, but preparing for the worst. Realistic optimism is created by balancing the way you think which helps you deal with life’s ups and downs, and look at what possibly could go wrong. This enhances your ability to make well informed business and life decisions by counterbalancing an overly optimistic view that often generates a spin scenario of success.

Realistic optimism applies the power of balance which provides you with the ability to look realistically at what is as well as what is possible and then think about what practically needs to be done to make it a reality.

Perfectionism has us falsely believe that there is a perfect world. Realistic optimists are aware that we live in an imperfect world in which things do not always work, relationships break up and bad things do happen to good people. The realistic optimist sees the negative possibilities which provide objectivity, and has the ability to factor in what can possibly go wrong, but expects and chooses positive outcomes.

A false positive image creates intolerance for process thinking. This undermines the creation of a learning attitude and often leads to an abhorrence of mistakes. Realistic optimists feel comfortable with taking a process approach to crafting the lives that they truly want to live.

Realistic optimists transform talking positively into taking positive actions which creates a greater chance of success. They also realize that they need to make the effort to make their decisions a reality. They are aware that they need to plan for how they are going to deal with obstacles that may emerge, which increases their confidence level in their ability to get things done.

Business Owners:  The deleterious effect of the fog of delusional optimism works against owners having a substantive perspective which is needed to make real changes in their businesses. I have heard professional advisors for years complain about how owners want an unrealistically high price for their business which is not based on what the company is really worth. A realistic perspective leads owners to ask a realistic price for their businesses which greatly facilitates the selling process. A realistic perspective helps them be aware of the fears and the emotional attachment that is often associated with selling a business so they can take effective actions to counterbalance them. It also allows owners to identify their companies’ strengths and weaknesses so they can fix any glaring defects or problems and create a realistic strategic plan for what needs to be done to increase the value of the business.

Action Step: Get Real!”

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