pessimism or optimism

In the Shakespearean tragedy titled after the main character, Hamlet ponders his imprisonment by Denmark and the King as well as in his own mind when he says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

In my previous post in this series of posts on the nature of “reality,” we discussed how wearing C.R.A.P. glasses can distort our reality. Reality is highly personal and subjective. What you see and experience can be the opposite of me. Others may be somewhere in the middle. Often people wearing C.R.A.P. glasses will accuse more positive people of “not living in the real world.” But research clearly shows there is no objective “real world.”

Here’s what we can see from both ends of the Range of Reality:

Real Pessimism

“Pessimism promotes depression. Pessimism produces inertia rather than activity in the face of setbacks. Pessimism feels bad subjectively — blue, down, worried, anxious. Pessimism is self-fulfilling. Pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges, and therefore fail more frequently — even when success is attainable. Pessimism is associated with poor physical health.”

Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life


“Cheerful people resist disease better than grumpy ones. So, the surly bird gets the germ.”


“In effect, the negativity bias is tilted toward immediate survival, but against quality of life, peaceful and fulfilling relationships, and lasting mental and physical health. This is the default setting of the Stone Age brain. If we don’t take charge of it, it will continue to take charge of us.”
Rick Hanson, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment


“There are persons who always find a hair in their plate of soup for the simple reason that, when they sit down before it, they shake their heads until one falls in.”
Friedrich Hebbel, 19th Century German poet and dramatist


“Apocaholics (the word is Gary Alexander’s — he calls himself a recovering apocaholic) exploit and profit from the natural pessimism of human nature, the innate reactionary in every person. For 200 years pessimists have had all the headlines, even though optimists have far more often been right. Arch pessimists are feted, showered with honors, and rarely challenged, let alone confronted with their past mistakes.”
Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves


“Some people bring happiness wherever they go, other people bring happiness whenever they go”
Oscar Wilde


“It’s by tapping into our negativity bias that these digital platforms make their money, turning higher profits the worse people behave. Because bad behavior grabs our attention, it’s what generates the most clicks, and where we click the advertising dollars follow. This has turned social media into systems that amplify our worst qualities.”
Rutger Bergman, Humankind: A Hopeful History


“Do you know what a pessimist is? A man who thinks everybody as nasty as himself and hates them for it.”
George Bernard Shaw


“Turn on the news, and the majority of airtime is spent on accidents, corruption, murders, abuse. This focus on the negative tricks our brains into believing that this sorry ratio is reality, that most of life is negative. …in the first year of medical school, as students listen to all the diseases and symptoms that can befall a person, many aspiring doctors become suddenly convinced that they have come down with ALL of them.”
Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work


“How happy are the pessimists! What joy is theirs when they have proved there is no joy.”
Marie Ebner-Eschenbach, Austrian novelist


“Keep some perspective. Not every problem is a Crisis, Plague, Epidemic, or Existential Threat, and not every change is the End of This, the Death of That, or the Dawn of a Post-Something Era. Don’t confuse pessimism with profundity: problems are inevitable, but problems are solvable, and diagnosing every setback as a symptom of a sick society is a cheap grab for gravitas.”
Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Real Optimism

“Optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists, U.S. researchers said in a study that may give pessimists one more reason to grumble.”
Julie Steenhuysen, “Optimists live longer and healthier lives: study” MedlinePlus


“No one ever ruined their eyesight by looking at the bright side of life.”


“A review of more than 160 studies of human and animal subjects has found “clear and compelling evidence” that — all else being equal — happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.”
“Happiness Improves Health and Lengthens Life, Review Finds,” ScienceDaily


“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
Marcus Aurelius


“It’s no surprise that when you feel anxious your blood pressure rises. What may be surprising is that you have a hidden ‘reset’ button for these spikes in blood pressure: your own positive emotions. Good feelings not only flush out bad feelings, they also quiet your heart and quickly bring your blood pressure back to normal.”
Barbara Frederickson, Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions


“Medicine is dominated by the belief that psychological factors do not cause medical outcomes or only do so by way of biological processes — even if the psychological factors are known and measured and the biological factors are completely unknown…studies showing that unhappiness and pessimism cause death — and even more, studies showing that happiness and optimism prevent death…there should be widespread programs to raise the optimism, happiness, and vitality of medical patients — right now.”
Martin Seligman, The Hope Circuit: A Psychologist’s Journey from Helplessness to Optimism


“The Green Bay Packers never lost a football game. They just ran out of time.”
Vincent Thomas Lombardi, American football coach


“No one wants to work for a grouch. Research has proven it: Optimistic, enthusiastic leaders more easily retain their people, compared with those bosses who tend toward negative moods.”
Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence


“Be sure to live on the sunny side, and even then, do not expect the world to look bright, if you habitually wear gray-brown glasses.”
Charles William Eliot, “The Happy Life,” American academic and Harvard University president


“One study found that project teams with encouraging managers performed 31 percent better than teams whose managers were less positive and less open with praise. In fact, when recognition is specific and deliberately delivered, it is even more motivating than money.”
Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (p. 58). Crown Business. Kindle Edition.


“To offer a people hope is to acquire a position of leadership in their lives.”
Winston Churchill

There’s my world, your world, and the world experienced by billions of others. A highly pessimistic person, determined to spread their misery, is saying, “Here! Put on these glasses. This is how you should be looking at the world. This is reality.”

Pessimism or optimism; it’s all in how we frame life’s problems and possibilities.