Optimistic realists are a rare intersection of people who acknowledge the harsh difficulties of life while embracing hope.
They understand that there will be obstacles on the way to whatever goals they may have, whether that be peace, happiness, making a difference, or even just getting through the day.
That is quite different from people who self-identify as realists. Realists are often more pessimistic than neutral or optimistic.
Optimistic realism gives you many opportunities to embrace happiness, hope, and strive for more. But on the other hand, pessimism or negative pragmatism can sap you of energy.
If you want to shift your focus, consider adopting some habits of optimistic realists.
1. They set goals they can actually achieve.
A realistic goal needs to be an attainable goal.
People make general goals like, “I want to change the world!” But a goal like that depends on what you mean. Is it some dream-like goal of revolutionizing the world? Or is it focusing on putting something good into the world around you to positively influence others to improve their lives?
A lack of specificity is the problem with abstract goals. Okay, you want to make the world a better place.
Well, maybe you’ll help at a homeless shelter or visit some lonely seniors at an old folk’s home. It’s direct actions like these that you’ll find optimistic realistic setting their sights on.
2. They strive to maintain a positive outlook on life.
Maintaining a positive outlook is a difficult goal when you’re drowning in the negativity of the news and social media. Everyone wants you to be angry and afraid because anger and fear create engagement, which means greater numbers to sell to advertisers.
Realistic positivity isn’t about being blind to the suffering in the world. Not at all. Optimistic realism and positive thinking are more about accepting the world’s terrible things and still believing that we can all do better.
The truth is that many of us can do better—it’s just really hard to do.
3. They embrace each failure as a teaching moment.
Failure is not necessarily an end condition. The people who look at failure as the end of a thing are throwing away the valuable wisdom and knowledge they gained in pursuing that thing.
Instead of looking at failure as an end, the optimistic realist sees failure as a lesson in what didn’t work.
Why didn’t it work? Is there a way to take a different path to what I’m trying to accomplish? How can I use this wisdom to push toward this goal or pivot toward another?
But that also doesn’t mean every failure can be approached that way. Sometimes things can’t work out, and that’s how it is. However, in many cases, people write off their failures as they end too quickly.
4. They take action to turn their goals into reality.
The optimistic realist understands that goals aren’t accomplished by sitting around talking and dreaming about them.
Nobody cares about what you’re going to do. They only care about what you actually do.
Goals don’t get accomplished by dreaming about them. Furthermore, many people get trapped in analysis paralysis and procrastinate on doing what they want to do by researching too much. At some point, you have to take action.
The good news is that you don’t have to know everything before you make your move. In fact, sometimes it’s better not to so you’re not totally following in similar footsteps.
Additionally, you must be confident that you can always find the information you need later.
5. They embrace change rather than fear it.
Change is inevitable. There’s no escaping it. Some people adapt and grow with change, while others get trapped in the past and refuse to step forward.
The optimistic realist understands that change is going to happen. They further understand that resisting change is often far more painful than accepting it.
For example, perhaps they are in a relationship that started off great but is now fizzling out. One can cling to what they hoped it would be for years if they really want to. However, the faster they can accept the change in their life, the faster they can move on to something right for them.
6. They surround themselves with positive people.
It’s hard to maintain a realistic, optimistic outlook when negative people constantly tell you how terrible everything is.
And look, there are many terrible things out there in the world. There’s no denying that. But do you have to immerse yourself in it? Let yourself drown in it?
A pessimist has a problem for every solution and is often a source of their own misery. That kind of negativity is infectious. However, the optimistic realist doesn’t hide away from it either. It’s about moderation.
7. They stay informed about what’s going on in the world.
The optimistic realist does stay informed. The only way to make informed decisions is by understanding what’s happening around you.
If you don’t understand what’s happening around you, you’re back to just dreaming and thinking about how you want things to be instead of making them so.
Again, moderation is an important part of staying informed. The source of that information also matters. There’s a difference between taking in information and being shouted at by some talking heads in the media with their agenda, which is usually money.
8. They maintain a sense of humor in life.
There are few things more powerful than the ability to laugh.
They say that “laughter is the best medicine.” Why? Because it can help defuse and cure pessimism. It’s difficult to be negative when laughing and having a good time with people.
But, again, that doesn’t mean being willfully ignorant and avoiding negative things. We still have to find reasons to smile when times are hard. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down with some comedy that can make you laugh on a bad day.
9. They focus on the present moment.
All we truly have is the present moment. Everything in the past is already done and over with. You can’t change it. You can only accept it and use it to make better decisions right now in the present.
As a result, many people struggle with anxiety about the future. The problem is that you can never truly know what will happen in the future. You can think about it and plan for worst-case scenarios, but you’ll likely be confronted with things you can’t plan for.
In that case, all you can rely on is the knowledge and wisdom you’ve acquired from the past to navigate the present.
10. They practice sincere gratitude.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for optimistic realists. It helps keep you grounded in reality.
Gratitude acknowledges what we have, why we should be thankful, and why we can look forward to a better tomorrow. After all, everything we’ve experienced in the past has brought us to the future.
And, while some of those past experiences may be terrible, you’re still here. You can still try to make progress, better your life, and create more happiness for yourself.
That is not to say that you need to be grateful for the terrible things that have happened to you. Not at all. But, thankfully, you’re still here to keep striving for better.
11. They seek out new experiences for personal growth.
Personal growth doesn’t often happen in a vacuum. New experiences help realistic optimists expand their worldview by gaining new wisdom they may not have acquired independently.
Learning new things allows them to find more solutions to different problems that they may face. Furthermore, it helps them discover new interests that may take them in directions they never dreamed of going toward self-fulfillment.
12. They prioritize their health and wellness.
Maintaining a positive attitude and perspective is hard when you’re tired and drained. So, the optimistic realist makes regular self-care habits to improve their wellness and keep themselves healthy.
That includes eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. In addition, they will have regular checkups and maintain treatment plans for whatever they may be dealing with.
After all, the optimistic realist knows they will have plenty of time on this earth, so they must be in tip-top shape to make the most of it.