Sign up FAST! Login

Optimists vs. Pessimists: Who’s Right? | TIME

Stashed in: #happiness, Optimism, @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Life Hacks

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

What should you take away from all this?

  1. The majority of the time, think positive. Happiness and health trump pretty much everything else.
  2. There are situations where negativity can help, like when we’re making high-stakes plans or trying to improve skills.

To everything, there is a season. 

To maximize upside, be optimistic.  To minimize downside, be pessimistic.

Somehow the linked article above really irked me... AND I had some time on my hands today.  Uh oh, now I'm barking:

Are there no more editors left in the world, even at TIME online?

It's not being optimistic saying that Barker is a good writer who is well intentioned, he is:  his barking has drawn readers' attention to many interesting things.  Yet in this instance I'm unconvinced and wholeheartedly dismayed by his revisionism of pessimism into an analytical tool that exists entirely outside it's commonly accepted, experienced and well documented usage.  

Reframing a commonly understood negative word (yes, there are still negatives, regardless how much spin and dissembling we can muster) into some sort of magical, analytical happy skill doesn't work here, on any level.  

Let's review and at least agree on what pessimism really is:




-a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.

--a belief that this world is as bad as it could be or that evil will ultimately prevail over good."

PESSIMISM connotes a deadened frame of mind and disposition that lacks analytical capacity, is bereft of any belief in positive outcomes, and exists outside any motivation (why try?).  How could this ever be confused with a value adding skill towards individual problem solving or team capacity building?

Pessimism is a world view that real people actually subscribe to and vocally espouse.  Unfortunately I'm not enlightened enough to enjoy hanging around such people and I would never encourage others to become pessimistic, or indulge such people in their company... unless they happen to be professional psychiatrists on the job.  

But that's not Barker's point.

Here's mine: published writers should look up powerful words and employ greater care and responsibility when using them--or at least their editors should.  And I'm optimistic in stating that the pen was indeed once mighty and may become so again... but only if writers and speakers remain true to actual experience and wield the power of language in proper proportion and context to our ambitions of shared value and meaning.   

Yes irony is dead, connotation is maimed and denotive meaning is under assault and battery every day.  Some already rationalize accuracy and precision in language don't matter anymore because people don't listen and they don't read.  Who really cares how muddy or clear the exposition flows? I would wager it's the optimists among us that still do.

So if you call me a pessimist I'll either leave the scene, or stay and bop you in the nose saying, "You're right...oh gee, I thought you were going to hit me too--I can't help but expect the worst."

But if you call me a problem solver that can discover the vulnerabilities in situations before they happen and act to preempt them, I'll buy you a drink and we'll likely have a fun conversation. Perhaps we'll even become friends.

These are not the same things.


PS  Eric, I love your work, man.  You're glass is clearly getting fuller so keep barking!

You May Also Like: