Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Here’s another in the highly entertaining series of articles written for the BBC by Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times. This time she turns her attention to whether it’s better to be an optimist or a pessimist in business.

Lucy Kellaway for BBC: Pessimism is Good for Business

For as long as I can remember, pessimism has been taboo in the educational arena. In the maths classroom or on the basketball court, children the world over are exhorted to ‘think positive’, ‘believe you can’ and ‘go for it’.

If Kellaway is right, then we might see a rather more balanced perspective in the future that accommodates regardless of whether someone tends naturally towards one or the other. Who knows, maybe in time we’ll just accept these differences as naturally as the learning differences of Howard Gardner and allow for both optimism and pessimism within the way learning gets facilitated.

Somewhere, the ‘optimism only’ never felt completely right to me. If you don’t prepare properly, diligently and effectively for a test or exam it doesn’t matter how optimistically you focus your thoughts – you’re not going to do well. If you haven’t trained, have been eating the wrong diet and not getting enough sleep, it doesn’t matter how optimistic you are on sports day, there’s a good chance someone’s going to beat you.

When you’ve filled yourself with optimistic zeal, how much disappointment are you in for when reality comes a-calling? Personally, I’d rather be acknowledging that if there’s someone out there who has worked harder than me, prepared better, used better methods etc. it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my mind – his best will probably be better than mine. That doesn’t preclude me from raising my game in the future – in fact, with my feet on tera firma maybe I’m more open to figuring out what I need to do to iomprove.

So, what will it be for you – glass half full or glass half empty?

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