Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?

When faced with a major business challenge, do you approach it with a “can do” attitude or with a mentality that prepares for the worst?

In fact, both optimists and pessimists (and everybody in between) exist in the business world – but really, there’s no right or wrong way to approach career projects and decisions.  Both optimists and pessimists have their own advantages and challenges in dealing with the business environment, so don’t let anyone tell you that your mental outlook is somehow “wrong” and must be changed.

That said, it’s important for both optimists and pessimists to be aware of the implications of their in-born mindsets, as identifying either way presents a unique set of considerations that must be made with an eye towards business interactions.  Both optimists and pessimists need to be aware of the limitations their mindsets present, as well as how each outlook can be used to maximize career success.

So, in order to get the most out of your work environment – based on your internal mindset – consider the following guidelines for handling business challenges:

If you’re an optimist…

Being an optimist can be a tremendous asset in business, as you’re generally able to see more potential in new projects and opportunities, compared to someone who takes a more negative approach.  Optimists can be incredibly fun to work with, as their enthusiasm for new endeavors is contagious and their positive outlook makes them able to find the up-side in any task.

Therefore, if you’re an optimist, play to these strengths.  Take on leadership roles that allow you to influence others with your positive attitude, as you’ll likely be an inspirational leader that others will choose to get behind.  When possible, bring your unique perspective to projects that seem stalled or to situations that have been unresolved for lengthy periods of time.

Of course, optimists have their own challenges as well.  Approaching projects from a “glass half full” mindset may cause optimists to pursue risky propositions as the result of their rosy outlook, putting entire projects and teams in jeopardy.

As a result, there are a few things that optimists will want to keep in mind when approaching business deals:

  • No matter how exciting a project may seem, it’s important to look before you leap.  Having a positive mindset doesn’t mean making rash decisions or believing that things will turn out fine (even when the data suggests otherwise).  Be cautious not to let your positive nature blind you to a project’s true challenges.
  • Back up your positive thinking with concrete strategies.  Plenty of people tune out perpetual optimists based on the impression that they’re overly-positive, empty-headed workers with the personality of a “can do” Disney character.  To dispel this notion, be sure to pair your outwardly positive outlook with actual plans of action that will help you to make measurable progress towards the rosy end result you envision.

Above all, don’t let people discourage you for having an optimistic mindset.  There’s nothing wrong with looking towards the bright side of things – especially considering all the different advantages this attitude can bring to a business environment.

If you’re a pessimist…

Pessimists sometimes get a bad rap as being the “Eeyores” of the corporate world, but the reality is that there’s as much value in this outlook as is offered by optimists.

Pessimists, as the result of their more negative outlook, tend to be more cautious in moving forward with new projects and priorities.  Because of this, they’re able to identify and eliminate potential pitfalls before they occur – contributing to higher success rates and more realistic expectations.

That said, pessimists may find themselves in situations where they need to worry less and jump more.  Specifically, pessimists need to keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Don’t let pessimism prevent you from taking action.  If you’re concerned that things will turn out poorly, you’ll be less likely to take the career risks that allow you to distinguish yourself from your colleagues.  Use your negative mindset to weed out bad opportunities, but don’t allow this attitude to hold you back from jumping on projects and promotions with a smaller downside.
  • Don’t voice negative attitudes without offering alternative solutions.  Don’t be that guy who’s perpetually putting down team members and dismissing team objectives as unrealistic.  Nobody wants to work with him, and he’s unlikely to advance at all throughout his career.  If you simply must voice a negative opinion, do so only when offering concrete alternatives and solutions.

Now, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re either 100% optimistic or 100% pessimistic, as few of us fall at either end of this spectrum.  Because of this, it’s important to use the guidelines above to learn how to identify when you’re behaving in an optimistic or pessimistic manner.  Learning to compensate for the strengths and weaknesses each of these mindsets presents in your business life will enable you to make more progress and avoid the pitfalls that are commonly associated with optimistic and pessimistic attitudes.

One thought on “Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?

  1. Andrew L

    This is a very well-written article. I agree with it very much and can say that I’ve explained to some people that the only real problem with virtually all mindsets and behavioral characteristics and traits are those done in an excessive manner. Life needs balance, but like control, maintaining balance is more of a perceptive illusion based on an individual’s values and desires. Therefore, all you can do is make a measured decision with alternative solutions ready, so you can change the actions to match the resulted outcome accordingly. But mistakes happen, and failures exist. Your site touches on the very core issues that plague a majority of individuals today in multiple cultures and countries around the world. Kudos, Aj. This site is an accomplishment to be proud of.

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