Optimism vs Pragmatism

I’m sure everyone at some point in their lives have been told to either “Be Optimistic” or “Look at the brighter side” or something of that sort. And truth is, we probably needed that advice at that point in time. Even otherwise, most people assume that optimism is the way to go and anyone who shows even the slightest signs of negativity is branded a pessimist. This is part of a larger problem that humanity possesses in seeing everything as black-or-white. It’s either this or that. Like there’s no midway.

Also, as you probably know, an over-dose of anything can be lethal. And the same goes for optimism too. In fact, if you imagine a startup company that is run by all optimistic people, I can pretty much guarantee that they’re gonna run into some nasty roadblocks or surprises along the way. How do you balance then? Throw some pessimists in along with the optimists. They will counter-argue and will try to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

But you know what’s even better? Being a pragmatist.

And I cannot stress this point enough, but being a pragmatic person will save you from a lot of trouble in any conceivable situation. But how is a pragmatist different from a pessimist? See, a pessimist believes that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. (Ardent believers of Murphy’s laws, these people) But a pragmatist, on the other hand, knows to a better degree what may and what may not go wrong. These are the people who will do their “risk analysis” before starting to do anything (even in personal lives), and will also come up with “risk mitigation” and “contingency” plans. While the more traditional optimists might skip this step altogether!

So why do pragmatists win?

Because they prepare themselves for both the best and the worst.

They don’t wallow in self-doubt or skepticism. Pragmatism is about taking a realistic and sensible approach to things, and about making peace with the fact that things may either go your away or against it. With optimism comes an over-confidence that can cloud your consciousness, potentially blinding you to missteps. Pessimism, of course, leads to fear of taking action.

But pragmatists, on the other hand, are just better at dealing with both success and failure. Because they are also aware that nothing is permanent, and so live in a constant understanding that anything they possess today, they might lose it tomorrow. Loss is after all, a part of life. And dealing with loss/failure is something majority of the human population have trouble with. Pragmatists are slightly better in this regard as they had already foreseen that possibility.

To sum up, pragmatists probably live the most imperturbable lives. They will never say “the glass is half full or half empty”, but they will mostly say, “The glass has an adequate amount of liquid.” 🙂