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How optimism can sometimes hurt your personal growth May 4, 2018

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in personal development ideas.
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It would be difficult to explore any particular personal growth program or system without encountering a discussion of optimism, a discussion which will usually extol the need for, and benefits of, optimism; but can optimism have a downside?

The word optimism is derived from the Latin, optimus, meaning the best; and in thinking about this topic further, I found a number of definitions of optimism, one of which is:

“The tendency to take the most hopeful view.” *

That seems like a practical and productive attitude.

Another one, which I think requires more of a fatalism-based belief approach, is:

“The opinion or doctrine that everything is for the best.” *

The latter is more of a reach than taking a “hopeful view”

Regardless of which definition we might prefer, they both appear to be present-time or now-focussed.  Whatever is happening, we take either a “hopeful view” or tell ourselves “It is for the best.”

But I think in most cases, our optimism is future-focused and that is where we can get into trouble.

“This is bad, but it will get better.”

Maybe it will and maybe it won’t.

If it doesn’t get better, and we bet on faith that it will get better but don’t take action steps to ensure a positive outcome, we are missing an opportunity in the present to improve the situation.

Alternatively, “This is good and it will continue to be good.”

Again, faith without productive actions will likely disappoint.

Optimism can be a rational and a productive attitudinal foundation for our efforts towards self-actualization and personal improvement, but…

…optimism has to be based on a commitment to action, or it will likely fail to result in positive outcomes.

* Both definitions are from Webster’s Scholastic Dictionary, Airmont Publishing Company, Inc., New York

—Dennis Mellersh

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