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The Recovering Realist

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Ever since I was young, I’ve had a knack for poking holes in other people’s ideas. It didn’t matter whether it was something to do for the evening, or a theory on relationships, or well, anything. I could tell you why it probably wouldn’t work. I’ve been called a pessimist many times and my reply to that label was always, “I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist.”

The definition of a realist is “a person who tends to view or represent things as they really are,” and I genuinely believed that’s what I was doing. The problem was that I was only representing one side of things, which isn’t realistic at all. Sure, things go wrong. It happens all the time. Being able to point that out doesn’t make you a realist. A true realist would understand that there are two sides. Yes, many times there are a set of circumstances under which something will not work, but there are also a set of circumstances upon which they will and that is essential to being a realist. If you are filtering out the positive possibilities then you are not being realistic.

That was me. I was not being realistic. The people who labeled me a pessimist were right in their accusation. All along, I had been filtering out the good possibilities in favor of pointing out the negative ones.

What an absolute waste of time!

How many ideas have I spurned because of some belief that it “probably won’t work out”? I could just smack myself in the forehead. Fortunately I now know that beating myself up over something doesn’t solve a thing. Positive thinking does. Negative thinking has its place in that it keeps us grounded as we set our goals, but positive thinking is absolutely necessary to help us choose and pursue those goals.

I look back at myself, at my “realist” self, and see how truly immature and naïve I was. It makes me to smile to myself to think how many other people are out there doing the same negative thinking and using the same “realist” title to excuse it. Can you imagine if the entire world were “realists” of this sort? We’d still be living in the Stone Age! It makes me wish that I had some way of reaching those people and giving them a smack on the forehead.

I, for one, am glad that the world is not made out of realists—aren’t you?


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