The Difference Between Optimists and Pessimists

Today is Monday, so this post is on self confidence.

As you know, self confident people are optimists.  They also surround themselves with positive people and face their fears and deal with them.  Over the weekend, I saw an interesting piece on optimism by Brian Tracy.  It characterized the difference between optimists and pessimists and provided some common sense advice on how to become more optimistic.

“There are three basic differences in the reactions of optimists and pessimists. The first difference is that the optimist sees a setback as temporary, while the pessimist sees it as permanent. The optimist sees an unfortunate event, such as an order that falls through or a sales call that fails, as a temporary event, something that is limited in time and that has no real impact on the future. The pessimist, on the other hand, sees negative events as permanent, as part of life and destiny.

“The second difference between the optimist and the pessimist is that the optimist sees difficulties as specific, while the pessimist sees them as pervasive. This means that when things go wrong for the optimist, he looks at the event as an isolated incident largely disconnected from other things that are going on in his life.

“For example, if something you were counting on failed to materialize and you interpreted it to yourself as being an unfortunate event, but something that happens in the course of life and business, you would be reacting like an optimist. The pessimist, on the other hand, sees disappointments as being pervasive. That is, to him they are indications of a problem or shortcoming that pervades every area of life.

“The third difference between optimists and pessimists is that optimists see events as external, while pessimists interpret events as personal. When things go wrong, the optimist will tend to see the setback as resulting from external factors over which one has little control.

“If the optimist is cut off in traffic, for example, instead of getting angry or upset, he will simply downgrade the importance of the event by saying something like, ‘Oh, well, I guess that person is just having a bad day.’  The pessimist on the other hand, has a tendency to take everything personally. If the pessimist is cut off in traffic, he will react as though the other driver has deliberately acted to upset and frustrate him.

“The hallmark of the fully mature, fully functioning, self-actualizing personality is the ability to be objective and unemotional when caught up in the inevitable storms of daily life. The superior person has the ability to continue talking to himself in a positive and optimistic way, keeping his mind calm, clear and completely under control. The mature personality is more relaxed and aware and capable of interpreting events more realistically and less emotionally than is the immature personality. As a result, the mature person exerts a far greater sense of control and influence over his environment, and is far less likely to be angry, upset, or distracted.

“Look on the inevitable setbacks that you face as being temporary, specific and external. View the negative situation as a single event that is not connected to other potential events and that is caused largely by external factors over which you can have little control. Simply refuse to see the event as being in any way permanent, pervasive or indicative of personal incompetence of inability.  Resolve to think like an optimist, no matter what happens. You may not be able to control events but you can control the way you react to them.

“Action Exercises

“Here are three actions you can take immediately to put these ideas into action.

“First, remind yourself continually that setbacks are only temporary, they will soon be past and nothing is as serious as you think it is.

“Second, look upon each problem as a specific event, not connected to other events and not indicative of a pattern of any kind. Deal with it and get on with your life.

“Third, recognize that when things go wrong, they are usually caused by a variety of external events. Say to yourself, ‘What can’t be cured must be endured,’ and then get back to thinking about your goals.”

This is some great, common sense advice from Brian Tracy on how to become more optimistic.  Use it, and you will see dramatic results

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website to subscribe to my monthly ezine and for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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  1. This articles only points out the pros of optimism and the negatives of pessimism. As a writer you shouldn’t show so much bias. How about some clarity on both of these things as a whole.

  2. Jake:
    Thanks for your comment.
    But I see no positives to pessimism.
    Feel free to send me your thoughts on this topic.
    All the best,

  3. This is great advice Bud. I am building out a site to help felons get a job. Once someone has a record, their punishment continues post their sentence and they have to hold a truly optimistic outlook to get anywhere in life.

  4. Mark:
    Please send me an email
    I’m happy to help you with your project.
    All the best,

  5. David Philemon says:

    Thanks for this article. Keep the good work.

  6. The optimist sees the doughnut but the pessimist sees the hole in it

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