Saturday, 7 January 2017

Optimism Versus Pessimism - An inspired article after reading a book.

The dictionary definition of the words optimism and pessimism could be straight forward. The meaning of the words and the usage of these words by different people, different text books and different contexts motivated me to write this article today. It might look a serious introspection to people behavior. But I must admit that, it’s an attempt to learn the two words used by the world frequently. The trigger for writing this article is glancing on a self-help book and its definition of these two words.

I know that; I am getting to a debatable area. But I would like to learn. When I was in school days, my mom use to say the best way to learn is by writing what you have read in school text books. Those days, I never used to do that. That’s why I am writing about what I read and What I think. Now I believe and I am convinced that writing is the easier way to learn. Different people have different ways. But you know, it’s the mom

What is Optimism as per Wikipedia or Dictionary?

It is defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something. A phrase of optimism: - "The talks had been amicable and there were grounds for optimism"; Keywords associated with Optimism: - hopefulness, hope, confidence, buoyancy, cheer, good cheer, cheerfulness, positive attitude. Another Phrase: - “such statements reflect the growing optimism among members of the profession.”

What is Pessimism as per Wikipedia or Dictionary?

It is defined as a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen. A phrase: "The dispute cast an air of deep pessimism over the future of the peace talks"; Key words associated with Pessimism are defeatism, negative thinking, negativity, expecting the worst, doom and gloom, gloom, gloominess; hopelessness, lack of hope, cynicism, fatalism, depression, despair, melancholy, despondency, dejection, angst, distrust, doubt.

My Observations on people conversation styles

This is my classification of people based on conversation style that I have observed all these years. In the context, to explain further, I am taking two closely associated points. Let me call these classifications as Type1, Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4.
Type 1: Optimistic and Non Critic. (Non-Critic:- Dominates appreciating nature with good intent. Don’t want to find faults.)
Type 2: Optimistic and Critics (Critic: - People who find improvement areas or faults with good intent)
Type 3: Pessimistic and Non Critic
Type 4: Pessimistic and Critic

When any of these types of people communicate with each other; they will try to pull each other’s views to fall into their own views. For example, Type 1 will pull Type 2 to become Type 1. Same way, Type 2 will pull Type 3 to become their class. Type 4 will try to pull all others to their class. This is not done purposefully by people. It happens automatically through conversations. Because the words we speak are centrifugal force or driving force that creates worlds. The world of thoughts and thought of the world.

What do we learn by reading self-help books?

Most of the self-help books has a tone that communicates “Attitude” as most important attribute for success along with skill, environment and competence. Every time, such books talk about improvement, Optimism is the key word projected as a Hero and Pessimism as a villain. Is this completely true? The word “True” itself is subjective. What could be the trigger for self-help books? A number of studies have been done on optimism and psychological well-being versus pessimism and psychological stress. In the context of attitude to view on future outcomes of career or life and/ to derive motivational energy; optimism is the right word.

Usage of words in PMP (Project Management Practice) Jargon: - Optimistic and Pessimistic

During the estimation process of the work, people use 3-Point estimation when there is no previous history or sample of effort calculation method for new work/projects. In such a case where there is no reference point, a person might think about an Optimistic estimate, Pessimistic Estimate and then take a midpoint as an estimate to start the project. But, if we think a bit deep on the approach people do mentally during the process; they have some data points to do the guess estimate whether it is Optimistic or Pessimistic. How does that thought process works as per the word definitions. During effort calculation, I think about various possible activities assuming all going good without any trouble being optimistic about all parameters, I provide say 10 days as an effort estimate. Pessimistic guy goes through same thought process (but thinks about stuffs that may go wrong) and provides an estimate of 20 days as an effort. Then someone takes a midpoint of two as 15 days effort.

This is the point where I thought, there could be a better word than pessimistic for that kind of process in a management book. A person with his experience could be aware of the environment and provides an estimate considering various factors compared to the person who gave less estimate. Better words could be rushed estimate and unrushed estimate. Using both a 3- Point estimate.

Philosophical Pessimism

Ref: Wikipedia: - Paradoxically, philosophical pessimism is perhaps associated with the most optimistic long-term view, because it incorporates change. It is also often used in connection with art and literature. William Godwin for instance argued that society would eventually reach the state where calm reason would replace all violence and force, that mind could eventually make matter subservient to it, and that intelligence could discover the secret of immortality. Again, when philosophical pessimism is used in art and literature, the purpose is social reform. Some writers use it deliberately on characters to reflect real world. End of the day, we don’t live in a world where everyone is happy or everything is perfect. Only point to be noted here is the extent of pessimism on a person’s progress in life and society’s progress.

Philosophical optimalism

Ref: Wikipedia: Philosophical optimalism, as defined by Nicholas Rescher, holds that this universe exists because it is better than the alternatives. While this philosophy does not exclude the possibility of a deity, it also doesn't require one, and is compatible with atheism.

Psychological optimalism as defined by the positive psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, means willingness to accept failure while remaining confident that success will follow, a positive attitude he contrasts with negative perfectionism. Perfectionism can be defined as a persistent compulsive drive toward unattainable goals and valuation based solely in terms of accomplishment. Perfectionists reject the realities and constraints of human ability. They cannot accept failures, delaying any ambitious and productive behavior in fear of failure again. This neuroticism can even lead to clinical depression and low productivity. As an alternative to negative perfectionism, Ben-Shahar suggests the adoption of optimalism. Optimalism allows for failure in pursuit of a goal, and expects that while the trend of activity will tend towards the positive it is not necessary to always succeed while striving to attain goals. This basis in reality prevents the optimalist from being overwhelmed in the face of failure.

Optimalists accept failures and also learn from them, which encourages further pursuit of achievement. Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar believes that Optimalists and Perfectionists show distinct different motives. Optimalists tend to have more intrinsic, inward desires, with a motivation to learn, while perfectionists are highly motivated by a need to consistently prove themselves worthy.

In Summary, most people have mix of all these characters. In some people, certain attributes dominates consistently. For certain people, it changes based on situations. For another set, it changes over a period of time. In few cases, people can shift into multiple styles faster than others. It is also depended on the job in certain cases. Think about an auditor or a police man who needs to find fault most of the time in his career….!!!...Examples can go on…Let me cut it here…. 

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