I found this really delicious, and admittedly mind-blowing, blog post via my Facebook earlier this week:
“There are no realists. Everyone thinks they’re being realistic. Nobody has an objective view of their thinking. Pessimistic thoughts feel realistic to a pessimist. Optimistic thoughts feel realistic to an optimist. If you think you’re a realist you’re probably a pessimist, because obviously you’ve found a reason to tone down expectations.
Expect things to go well. You don’t need a reason first.”
At first I thought I’d have this great examination of how this quote – specifically – meant to me. I’ve never called myself an optimist or a pessimist because I felt it was too binary, too either/or. Now, it’s so much more than that. It’s about how our thoughts influence our relationship to the world, ourselves and the people in our lives. It’s about how we don’t even realize we’re thinking about – even if it’s all the time – until someone points it out.
It feels rational to expect bad things to happen. Don’t go out at night. Don’t travel alone. The world is a dangerous world. It feels almost normal to be so paranoid, fearful, unsure, living in hiding. Because that’s not just how lots of other people live, it’s how others expect you to live. So everyone is copying each other, not stopping to think that their thoughts aren’t really serving them, or helping them live more fulfilling lives. Because no one is objective about their thinking, and our thoughts change when we meet someone with a different mindset that I like better.
That’s what this quote makes me think of: the way it can be hard to pinpoint what’s wrong but then someone says it so succinctly, and you spot it instantly.
So am I afraid to expect the best?
And if so, why?
The biggest barrier I can think of is fear. Afraid that you’ll expect something that won’t arrive, or if it does, it’ll be awful. Afraid to want better things for yourself because you’re so used to how things are or used to be. I can understand that.
I know for me, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about worst case scenarios – almost daily. Oddly, it felt comforting since it had become so familiar. It’s what I knew.
“I can’t believe how prominent imaginary bad outcomes were in my life. Most of my life was spent picturing every kind of disaster, from embarrassment to maiming, virtually of it habitual, draining and useless.”
And at the core of my Lent exercise this year is to switch up my thinking so that I can be open to serendipity, so that I’m not scared all the time and can start to view the [my] world with more positivity, with more openness.
“That sums up the best advice I could give anyone: think a lot about what you want, and think only sparingly about what you don’t want.“
Because, honestly, what do you have to lose?