It’s funny how so many people tell me I’m optimistic. I literally hear it all the time. My guess is that because I’m a happy, positive person, one typically would assume I’m optimistic. Maybe they’re right, but is that a good thing?
It wasn’t until recently that I even knew there was a difference between being optimistic and being hopeful. While both are positive states of mind and important for our psychological health, one isn’t nearly as beneficial without the other.
Optimism is the belief that things will workout. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t having the outlook of the “glass half full” better than a negative attitude? Well yes, but that alone isn’t enough. If you’re simply optimistic there’s a good chance you will be disappointed primarily because you’re relying on external factors to ultimately determine your happiness. Since the core belief of optimism is that the future will have only good, positive experiences, it can easily turn to pessimism when things don’t turn out the way you want.
Hope on the other hand is when you don’t merely assume that things will work out, but instead you have a conviction that you can act to make it better. Hopeful people rely on their own capabilities and have greater motivation to act and do what’s necessary to advance whatever goals they have. It consists of focusing on what you can do to persevere. Because you are taking the initiative to ensure a better future, having hope not only gives you strength, but it’s also more powerful than simply being optimistic.
I mentioned perseverance. If you took the example of the pandemic it’s clear that hope trumps optimism. The optimists had a positive outlook that everything would go back to normal soon, but when it didn’t they were distraught. Those who were hopeful had the will and commitment to take the necessary actions to make the best of the situation, to persevere. They focused on what could be changed or made better and took action (control) over what they could. Hope withstands even the most challenging circumstances.
So although both these traits are positive and individually motivate towards a better future, involve favorable expectations of desired outcomes in the future, and are responsible for better health, they 100% work better together. I’ve learned I definitely possess both qualities and feel like I’m actually more hopeful! I’ve even become more mindful of how I’m reacting in different situations with regards to these traits. 🙂 What are you? #hopefuloptimist