Optimistic Realism, an Oxymoron or the Answer?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my natural temperament and personal paradigm and I came to the conclusion that I’m an optimistic realist to my core.  On the surface, it would seem that being an optimist and a realist are nearly as far apart as an optimist and a pessimist.  No true!  It is quite possible to be firmly planted in reality and still be hopeful about your circumstances.

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”  – Jean Cocteau

The definition of optimism is “a state of having positive beliefs.”  This is something that I really don’t struggle with most of the time.  Of course, there are times when I get in a funk and my vision gets cloudy.  I usually have a pretty jolly disposition, but I’m far from bubbly.  Are there bad things going on in the world every day?  Absolutely.  Are there great things going on in the world every day?  YES!  I think too many people focus so much on the bad that they can’t see the good.  It helps to remember that each one of us has the power to help somebody’s day get better or get worse.  You have the choice.  I choose to be positive.  I choose to be helpful.  I choose to be a blessing.  What do you choose?

Realism is closely related to pragmatism in that it emphasizes practicality and authenticity.  I have no use or time for fictitious personalities.  I can smell that sham from a mile away.  What I’m interested in is the way things actually are and the way people actually are.  I’ve started to question why I do the things I do.  Is it because I’ve always done it this way or does it make sense given the current circumstances?

I’ve found that my attitude strongly influences the outcome of anything I’m a part of.  Energy is contagious — positive or negative.  I used to work with someone we referred to as an “energy vortex.”  Whenever he was around people moved slower, were less productive, and were more likely to be short-tempered.  Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?  I certainly don’t.

I carry a small notepad around with me most of the time and write little notes down whenever I notice something interesting or think of something I want to remember.  I also use this notepad to keep track of things I want to write about and things I want to get done.  What is amazing to me is that some line items in my notepad have been on my mental radar for a long time.  It took writing them down to make them a reality.  I just read “Goals don’t make sense but I like them” by Andy Traub and he talks about how important it is to write down goals.  It becomes a commitment, but it also becomes a possibility.  It is more than a thought.

Just as writing down a goal makes it more likely to happen, having the attitude that something great can happen, makes it more likely to come to fruition.  The adage that “what goes around comes around” is certainly true.  Send out ‘good’ and watch it spread.

You can have the same control over your outlook on life.  It’s your choice to see the good or the bad.  It’s your choice to influence those around you and the world.  Don’t lose sight of real needs in the world, but just because there are needs in the world doesn’t mean the world should be blown up.  In fact, if not for serving others, there really isn’t a whole lot of reason for existence at all.

From my perspective, optimistic realism is the most complete, fulfilling, and satisfying way to see the world.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to experience pain because it makes the joyful moments that much sweeter.


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About Raun Lauterbach

Optimistic realist, life enthusiast, outdoor cook, Midwest traveler, husband, father... Follow me: Twitter | Facebook | Get updates in your email
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  • http://twitter.com/RobEsselink Robert Esselink

    Great post, I didn’t see this earlier when I wrote about changing your paradigm but I’m glad you directed me back to it. I see the victim mentality on a daily basis with my clients and what is worse yet is when they spread it and try to infect others. Many of them figure that if they can’t have it no one else should either. I regularly hear “you just don’t understand” and I think they are right, I don’t understand how a person can continue to sit around in their own misery and self pity. I try to help them see that what they feed their mind and their soul (all the bad, negative news around us) grows more negativity in them. 

  • http://www.backyardlifeblog.com Raun Lauterbach

    Thanks for the comment, Rob. I think it’s valuable to know that we are all influencers and we each have the choice to be a positive influence or a negative influence.