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Cautious Optimism


Techniques Happiness > Cautious Optimism

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Be generally optimistic, but not wildly optimistic. Believe that the future will be mostly good. See opportunities, weigh them up in a positive light, and then take the best route to a good future rather than just selecting the route to the safest future.

A common saying is 'Expect the best, but prepare for the worst'. Take a less extreme version than this. Expect good things, but be ready for bad things. Be hopeful but avoid blind belief. Have a back-up plan, but avoid spending lots of time in risk reduction. Save for a rainy day, but take time to smell the roses today. Do not let optimism lead you sitting back and expecting good fortune to just happen; be ready to work hard for those good things.


We spend a lot of time thinking about the future. If we are optimistic, all this time we will feel good. If we are pessimistic, we will feel bad for this period. The danger of blind optimism is that, while it may lead to short-term happiness, it can ignore risks and result in longer-term problems. If you want to be blindly optimistic, at least do so about things that, if they do not turn out, will not result in serious harm.

There is an argument that says 'do not expect much as you will probably be disappointed'. While more realistic than being optimistic, this is not the best route to happiness. A reason for this is that when things go wrong, optimistic people do not feel bad for long. Rather, they accept that occasionally things will not turn out, and assume that it should now be more likely that things will go better next time. In the reverse sense, pessimistic people gloomily think that when things turn out well this is a one-off and that things will be worse in the future.

When you are hopeful about the future, you take more risks. This means you will fail more often. It also means good things will happen more often. How you approach failure is very important. If you think about it as bad, and that it is the person that fails, then this can lead to a negative, pessimistic approach. However, if you see it as natural and an opportunity to learn, then you will embrace it with interest.

Optimism about the future is similar to gratitude about the past. Deciding to feel good and appreciate luck is a good thing.

See also

Optimism and Pessimism, Expressing Gratitude


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