Why Being Realistic Is A Trap

being realistic is a trapThe optimist sees the glass as half full and the pessimist sees the glass as half empty. Since I am the clever sort, whenever challenged with this concept by others I used to reply that I am a realist and just see the glass as it is.

Was I truly realistic? Looking back, I honestly have to say, “no.” I was actually pessimistic but covering it up. I rationalized my perspective by thinking and telling myself, as well as others, that I just saw things as they really were. In fact, I really was fearful, risk averse, and very uncomfortable with any change.

While most of us dislike being labeled or labeling ourselves as pessimists, being a realist can be just as limiting if not more. Whereas the pessimist will refuse to act mostly out of fear the realist goes one step further and refuses to act out of fear but only after careful analysis and coming up with all of the facts to be fearful in order to justify their inaction.

Being realistic is a trap that held me back for so many years, yet it was also so very easy to justify and rationalize. If for no other reason than I had “thought things through” and was convinced that my stance, beliefs, or views were not only right but also the safest.

My insistence on being a realist meant that I would not act or do anything unless all of the pins in life were lined up perfectly to guarantee success, or at least minimal failure. My dreams, goals, and visions we extremely limited as well… anytime I would start to have a grand vision or goal, I would allow reality to creep in and tone things back down to normal… meaning safe.

So many times I failed to follow my intuition and stopped myself from going after the things in life in life that inspired me, regardless of if they were unrealistic or not. Of course I can’t go back and change things and if I had to guess, doing things they way I did in a fact served me then, but that is no longer the case.

I have replaced the phrase, “I am just being realistic,” with a newer one which serves me so much better…. “Why not?”

Why not dream big and take that risk? Why not throw everything you can at a problem in order to find a solution? Why not look at all of the good things that can happen instead of the possible (but not probable) negative consequences?

None of us are fortune tellers, and nobody can really predict the future. And being realistic is a trap that we successfully rationalize and use to justify our fears of the future. The truth is that realistically, we don’t know what the possibilities are.

So instead, why don’t we overestimate what could go right and have the confidence that we can handle any consequences that come with it, both the good and the bad?

Do I consider myself an optimist now? To be honest, not so much, but I try my best to be as optimistic as I can every day. Instead of looking at the chance of rain, I focus on the chance of of sunshine. Instead of looking at what something might cost me, I look at what I might gain.

And when I find myself slipping back into my mode of being too realistic, I stop and ask myself, “Why not?”

Then I go for it!

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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Photo By Andy Wooten 05 July 2008

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