Optimism and Pessimism: Both are Essential for a Masterful Life

Are you an optimist? Are you a pessimist? Or are you both simultaneously, but unaware of it? What if both sides of your mental equation are equally as meaningful and essential for a masterful life? What if both poles are simultaneously present, though one may be conscious and the other unconscious?

You have moments when and where one of your optimistic or pessimistic personas are consciously expressed, and the complementary opposite other is unconsciously repressed, while at other moments the reverse is true.

When your optimist persona is expressed, you hope for, foresee or have confidence in a positive future outcome. You expect things to turn out favorably. You believe that you have the skill and ability to make so-called positive things happen. You tend to find opportunities in difficulties. But, you can also be at times overly gullible and partly blind as a result.

When your pessimist persona is expressed, you dread, foresee or have a sense of a negative future outcome. You expect things to turn out unfavorably. You believe that you don’t have the skill and ability to make so-called positive things happen. You tend to find difficulties in opportunities. But, you can also be at times overly skeptical and partly blind as a result.

When you are whole, integrated and authentic, you consciously foresee and embrace the positive opportunities and the negative difficulties simultaneously in the pursuit of your more balanced objective and what is truly more inspiring and meaningful. When you are undivided, you encompass and embrace your two sides of possible future outcomes in full awareness and you are not overly swayed by either side blindly, or with bias. You are more prepared for whatever comes along during your pursuit and therefore, more resilient.

When you have an unrealistic, optimistic fantasia view of the future, you have a positive or “optimism bias.” Your perception of the risk of misfortune is lower than true probability. It leads to a positive error correction or a negative feedback in the prefrontal cortex of your brain to return you to a more balanced and reasonable objective.

When you have an unrealistic, pessimistic nightmarish view of the future, you have a negative or “pessimism bias.” Your perception of the risk of misfortune is higher than true probability. It leads to a negative error correction or a positive feedback in the inferior frontal gyrus of your brain to return you again to a more balanced and reasonable objective.

When you have a fully reasonable and unbiased view of your present objective, you integrate such error corrections from either side of these two common subjectively-biased personas intuitively and set clear and meaningful objectives.

When you are fully conscious and acting in accordance with your true highest value(s) you awaken the executive functioning center in your medial prefrontal cortex which governs your pursuits, dampens the impulses and instincts of your polarizing amygdala and helps you pursue a more balanced and meaningful objective.

Your superconscious mind or executive center is cybernetic like and involves circular causal feedback loops to bring your overly optimistic and pessimistic states back into psychophysical homeostasis so you can set and pursuit a truly balanced and obtainable objective.

Each of your overly optimistic or pessimistic personas act as negative feedback responses to balance your overall psychophysiological state, thereby assisting you in integrating these two aspects into one more objective, authentic and powerful whole.

You have a genetic and memetic set point of equilibrium where any upward swing in positive, optimistic “happiness” falls back to the baseline and overshoots into negative, pessimistic “sadness” and then oscillates back up to the baseline. It is futile to override this law of balance long-term—what goes up must come down and vice versa.

Intentional activities based upon realistic and balanced expectations can help you appreciate the higher intuitive and governing power of your executive brain. Either supportive or challenging outer social interaction and feedback can also add to this balanced state—called “fulfillment.”

Neither optimistic pleasure and happiness, nor pessimistic pain and sadness can be pursued or avoided independently, for they are inseparably entangled like two poles of a magnet, or two quantum particles.

You may consciously express pleasure and unconsciously repress your underlying pain, or you may consciously express your pain and unconsciously repress your underlying pleasure. In either case, they are inseparable and actually two sides of one state of wholeness. Wisdom and love involves embracing the synthesis and synchronicity of these and all other complementary opposites.

The World Health Organization has called the U.S. one of the least happy and most anxious of all developed countries. Why does a nation so infatuated with optimistic happiness seem so discontented? Is it because the pursuit of fantasies breeds and is accompanied by nightmares?

It is unwise for you to try to be optimistically positive all the time. Positive thinking doesn’t actually help you as much as you might imagine. Trying to maintain only positive visions (fantasies) of the future while pursuing your goals will hinder your progress in achieving them.

A mental contrasting tool called PVGOP—Purpose, Vision, Goal, Obstacle, Plan can help. By using PVGOP you will be significantly more engaged with your work and less stressed. Although optimistic or positive thinking might feel warm and fuzzy in the initial moment, it often bears a false promise. Only when it’s paired with a clear view of potential obstacles will it consistently produce the desired results. A balanced, strategically-planned objective is more achievable. When you live congruently with your highest values, you are more likely to set balanced, objectively-reasoned goals.

What do you get when you combine positive psychology and strengths-based leadership? You get deluded people who will never realize a fraction of their full potential. And if they happen to be entrepreneurs, there’s a very great chance they’ll fall flat on their faces and take their businesses down with them. Truth is, any fad that teaches you to focus on one aspect of reality and ignore its opposite is likely to be destructive. There is a natural balance to all things: life and death, good and bad, happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain. The very idea that you should focus on positives and ignore negatives, likewise with strengths versus weaknesses, is not only delusional; it’s a recipe for disaster. While life is full of ups and downs, one thing is certain: If you attempt to filter your consciousness and disallow negative thoughts or make believe the weaknesses holding you back don’t exist, you’ll probably never get past those hurdles and get to the next stage in your personal and professional development. And neither will your business.
Steve Tobak

What sets human beings apart from animals is not the hedonistic or optimistic pursuit of a one-sided happiness, nor the anxiety of pessimistic sadness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of the middle path of meaning, which is unique to humans. The meaning extracted from the balance of the optimistic and pessimistic anticipation of the future outcomes together builds reasonable pursuits that are whole and productive.

Meaning is enduring. People who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate the fulfillment with their life higher than those who are almost bipolar with their conscious optimistic or unconscious pessimistic viewpoints. Both optimism and pessimism together are essential for you to have a more balanced, meaningful and masterful life.

About The Author

Dr. John Demartini, one of the world's leading authorities and educators on human behavior and leadership development, is the founder of the Demartini Institute, which offers an extensive curriculum of more than 76 courses on self-development, life mastery and leadership. Demartini's knowledge is the culmination of 46-plus years of cross-disciplinary research, and he travels internationally full time, addressing audiences in media, seminars and consultations. He is the author of more than 40 self-development books, including the bestseller The Breakthrough Experience, and he has produced numerous audio CDs, DVDs and online programs discussing financial and business mastery, relationship development, health and healing, the art of communication and inspiring education and leadership. Demartini has been featured in film documentaries such as “The Secret,” “The Opus,” and “Oh My God” alongside Ringo Starr, Seal and Hugh Jackman. He has also shared the stage with influential educators Stephen Covey, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Steve Wosniak, Tony Fernandez and Donald Trump. He has appeared on “Larry King Live,” “The Early Show” and “Wall Street,” as well as in the publications Shape, Leadership, Success, Prestige, Entrepreneur and O. For editorial consideration, please contact editor@jetsetmag(dot)com.

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