Be Successful with This Attitude: Realistic Optimism

Much has been written about the value of optimism. Some people believe success will come easily if you are just optimistic – sort of like wishful thinking. Unfortunately, life isn't as easy as visualizing what you want and waiting for it to happen. I know this from personal experience. Does this mean optimism is not helpful?

Absolutely not. There are all kinds of studies that show optimism can create confidence that is necessary for creating and sustaining your motivation to attain your goals.

So what has been learned over the years about optimism that will make you successful?

It is now known it is not enough to just believe you will be successful and what you want will come easily. The important condition that needs to be added to be successful is Realistic Optimism.

A realistic optimist expects success rather than failure, sees opportunities and others positively, and expects with effort to bring positive change that will improve the future

An important difference between a realistic optimist and an unrealistic optimist is knowing you will need to put effort into reaching your goal. It will not just happen.

This takes effort and time. You have to know who and what your resources are, do careful planning, be persistent, choose successful strategies, and know how you will handle obstacles if they happen. All of the additional effort and time it takes to be a realistic optimist is worth it because it increases your confidence in your own ability to get things done.

When you are a realistic optimist, you:

  • See obstacles as temporary, as challenges to overcome
  • Have an encouraging self-talk style
  • Believe you can and will succeed with effort
  • Believe bad events are not your fault – just inevitable external realities you can surmount with effort
  • Perceive a bad situation as a challenge and try harder
  • See setbacks as temporary and not a personal flaw
  • Do better in what you are doing (work, school, relaxing, playing) and in life
  • Enjoy better health and may even live longer

Ways you can develop realistic optimism are:

  • Listen to your self-talk about the challenges in your life. Change it to better match the characteristics of a realistic optimist
  • Examine your beliefs about the problems or challenges that come up in life and how you interpret them
  • Check the feelings you have about your beliefs when things go wrong: negative feelings create passivity; positive beliefs energerize you
  • Learn how to question your negative beliefs. Because you believe something, it does not necessarily mean it is true
  • Look for evidence or alternative explanations to dispute your negative beliefs
  • Discover ways to stop catastrophizing what happens in your life

As you begin to find simple ways to try some new behaviors that help you put effort into what you want in your life, you will be more confident about using this way of thinking during the more difficult times.

Sometimes believing the road to success may be rocky can lead to greater success because it helps you take action. You will put in more effort, make better plans and decisions, and be more resilient in the face of difficulty.

You can develop your realistic optimism by combining a positive attitude with an honest assessment of the challenges in your life. As you visualize your success, be sure you visualize the effort and steps you will take to make your life as engaged and fulfilling as you want it to be.

If this is the type of person you want to be, let me help you become a realistic optimist.

Until next time,



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