Am I an optimist or a pessimist?

Well, this is not as straight forward as it first looks! I always try to look on the bright side of things in life – to look for the opportunities and to turn challenges into adventures. On the other hand, I find that I often have a lot of clarity about situations and the potential for things to go wrong. In my work life I called it good risk management skills.

A couple of years ago I was managing a big project for International Womens Day, held each year on the 8th March. It was a bigger event than I had managed previously so my approach was to make sure attention was paid to every detail. To my surprise, some of my workmates found this to be a negative experience and kept encouraging me to be more positive about the event.

In the situation above I was project managing but I was also leading the team and perhaps this is where the problem was. AS project manager I needed to be on top of every detail whereas as the team leader I needed to encourage and inspire the others that we could achieve what we wanted to achieve.

Would you say that being conscious of risks is being pessimistic? Perhaps it is. I know that the Martin Seligman book “Learned Optimism” explains (much better than I can) that optimism is not necessarily based on reality. It can be more about self confidence and even ignorance of the facts.

Seligman also talks about people suffering from depression having a much more realistic view of life (closer to the truth) than those that don’t. Perhaps if we could see the pitfalls and risks at every turn then we would all be depressed!

Ignorance is bliss?



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