The Flip Side of Unrealistic Optimism

Optimism is a hugely advantageous trait in anyone and I’ve written at length on numerous occasions about how it can help you to be more of a go getter, to take positive risks, and to be more content and satisfied with things the way they are as well. Someone positive will be less likely to make scathing remarks to others, less likely to feel jealous or insecure, more able to motivate a team, and generally more successful and pleasant to be around.

However while positivity is no doubt a highly beneficial trait, it’s important to note that too much unrealistic optimism can also have downsides (I guess that’s the pessimist in me talking) and can actually be quite dangerous. If you’ve been spending the last few months trying to develop optimism and trying to become a more happy-go-lucky person, then it’s important that you remember to avoid getting too carried away and losing all reason. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to remain grounded, that hopefully will make clear the importance of staying realistic.

It Leaves You Underprepared

First of all, if you are so optimistic that you end up not seeing any potential threats or problems on the horizon, then this can of course leave you unprepared for them when they do occur. For instance someone with over-the-top levels of optimism might not take out contents insurance on their home, or might not see the importance in diversifying their business – why would they need contingency plans when nothing can go wrong? What’s the point in wasting money when it could be directed towards their goals? Of course this kind of thinking can be highly dangerous and of course when something does go wrong, it can result in your being completely destitute.

Some Risks Aren’t Worth Taking

While some optimism is conducive to healthy risk taking that can help to push your forward, having over the top optimism can actually result in your taking risks that you shouldn’t take. For instance you might find yourself gambling large amounts of money, investing a lot of money, rock climbing, or leaving your house unlocked at night. When you take one risk too far that can of course have disastrous consequences.

You Can Encourage Others to Do the Wrong Thing

Being optimistic ensures that you are supportive of people who want to live their dreams and that you can help boost their self-esteem. Being delusional however can cause you to encourage people when maybe they really needed a voice of caution, and this can result in them engaging in potentially damaging behaviors. If you’re that guy or gal who says ‘see if you can climb up and grab that flag’ or ‘I can’t see a problem with you investing that much money’ – then you might want to think twice.

You Can Become Annoying and Unsympathetic

Being around someone who is very optimistic is a great feeling as they help you to see the bright side of every situation and as they never moan about their problems. However at the same time this can sometimes be very irritating, and sometimes people do just want to wallow. If someone has just suffered a terrible loss, then being constantly cheery can seem unsympathetic and cold and pointing out the positives is a fast way to lose friends.

You Can Become a Doormat

Optimists tend to see the best in everyone, and they tend to see the best in every situation. That means that friends can take advantage of them and not suffer any repercussions – you need a little bit of cynicism in order to notice this and prevent it.



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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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