This article was last updated on September 5, 2017
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony,” were the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi. Is it possible to achieve this sort of idealistic standard of happiness in this world? Research has shown that perspective makes a huge difference to overall life satisfaction. The optimist, pessimist, realist, and the perfectionist all have their own perspectives, let us have a look in detail.
Optimism vs Pessimism vs Realism: How to Achieve Happiness Regardless of Your Personality
Who are Optimists, Pessimists, Realists, and Perfectionists?
A half-filled glass is presented in front of an audience. Each person is independently asked to comment about the glass. Some say the glass is half full, some say it is half empty, some say it is just water and yet others say that water is life. Each one has the right to their own opinion and no one is ready to admit that they might be mistaken. According to their answers, each person has presented their personality classification in addition to their comment.
- Optimist: a person who looks on the more favorable side of events and expects a relatively positive outcome each time (glass half full)
- Pessimist: a tendency to see, anticipate, and emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, and conditions (glass half empty)
- Realist: someone who is inclined towards the genuine truth and pragmatism (just water)
- Perfectionist: a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection (water is life)
Defining Optimism and an optimistic perspective on life
Being optimistic can sometimes be confused with being happy. Some people might consider that being optimistic is synonymous with being happy and that they are one and the same thing. This is not the case. Being optimistic is having a positive outlook on life regardless of the unfortunate events that have already taken place. Optimistic people have a more constructive and energized approach towards life in general. They look at hindrances as a challenge, rather than as an experience in failure or disappointment. Just because of a positive outlook towards life, optimists have a healthier body. Their approach towards life in general, gives them a longer lifespan because they expect to live longer. As the famous Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “There is only one way to happiness that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” This is the approach of an optimist.
Defining the Pessimistic approach and how to achieve happiness
Your current state of mind will determine how you predict and respond to future events. Pessimists are more likely to view life’s problems as personal failures and start to blame themselves for being incompetent. Not only are they going to label themselves incompetent, they will even go so far as to imagine themselves living on the street in the next few days because of this short lapse of proficiency. This is the reason why they keep failing and regretting their actions and consequences. They have low expectations for everyone except themselves, it’s a vicious cycle. To quote the words of Oscar Wilde, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
The first thing to do to achieve happiness is to think of the worst case scenario in any given situation. Share that worst case scenario with a friend, family member or a confidant. Ask them if they can think of a situation worse than the one which you have imagined. You will get some unusually conspicuous replies. After hearing their replies you will feel quite relaxed at the scenario which you had initially thought that could have been the worst case scenario. This humor will give you a sense of control over the situation. Use that! Embed that into your mind! Believe in yourself! You can do better than that! Even if it is the worst case scenario you can even prevent it from occurring.
Describing Realism and a realistic approach towards Life
A realistic mindset allows a person to see each day as a new opportunity. If things have not gone according to their plans yesterday, today brings with itself a new chance to start all over again. This is a person who hopes for or accepts only what seems possible or likely, and does not hope for or expect anything more or less than that. The realist deals with life and its experiences and milestones in a very practical manner.
The key to a realist is objectivity. Bias and prejudice, whims and notions, have no place in a realistic person’s character. Pessimists view the realists as optimists because of their neutrality. At the same time, optimists view the realists as pessimists because of their impartiality. The quotes about change in the words of Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” This is the psychology of a realist.
Defining Perfectionism and identifying perfectionists
There is a huge misunderstanding of the definition of the word perfectionism. Most students believe that this is a good academic writing standard to follow and a good concept in general. As most psychologists will tell you the inverse is actually true. Perfectionism is the relentless pursuit of extremely high standards in all aspects of life whether it is scholastic, personal, physical or even financial. A perfectionist will judge their own actions based largely on their ability to strive for and achieve intransigent standards which may or may not be required in life.
Sometimes the drive to do well can actually impair performance. There is a huge difference between a healthy and helpful pursuit of excellence and an unhealthy and unhelpful pursuit of excellence and perfection in every aspect of life. This unhealthy and unhelpful pursuit of excellence in every aspect of life, and expectation of perfection from every person in life can easily get in the way of happiness.
The cost of being a perfectionist
This pursuit of perfection can lead to social isolation, frustration, worry, depression, procrastination and excessive time taken to complete tasks. This is the cost of being a perfectionist. The following are some remarks which a perfectionist may make.
- I have no free time.
- No achievement is ever enough
- So, I really can’t stand it when other people can’t do things my way
- I don’t trust others to do as good a job as I do, so I end up doing it by myself
- I have to go over my work many times until it’s acceptable to me
- Honestly, I get pleasure out of achieving what others can’t do
- Organization is pleasure
- I am prepared for every event
11 decisive action steps to take in order to achieve happiness
Happiness is defined as experiencing or exhibiting joy and pleasure, and another word for happiness is contentment. There are some measures which you can take to achieve happiness regardless of your personality type.
- Accept yourself as you are. Even though we may have many friends, relatives and acquaintances, it is very important to first be at peace with yourself. Friends, relatives and acquaintances will all come and go in your life, but you will always have to live with yourself. Make sure you are satisfied with every aspect of your personality, every weakness, imperfection or even strength.
- Forgive yourself. In life, we are constantly looking for approval. In the end, it is our own approval of our own actions which will determine in which direction our personality will be headed. If we achieve our goals and desires we become positive and move ahead with determination. Ultimately we also have to face the repercussions of any failures that may have happened. Don’t create a negative self-image of yourself just because of a few failures.
Take note of others
- Accept others and forgive others. Always forgive others who did wrong to you. No matter who did wrong to you, or when they did wrong to you, holding on to a grudge will not hurt the other person at all, it will only hurt you. Your expectations will all be ignored.Stop judging other people’s actions: Sometimes man is over critical of other people’s actions when there is a lot to gain or lose. We easily forget the circumstances and predicament the other person had to face and we only remember our own personal gains. Stop being so selfish.
- Expectation is the root of all heartache. When expectations are not met, it leads to resentment. Then follows a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from disappointment to anger ending in guilt. It is much easier to think of each event or experience as a single accomplishment or success or a single failure. Don’t associate one experience to lead to an expectation for the next.
Chase your ideals
- Pursue what makes you happy. Always keep yourself busy doing what you enjoy. To quote the words of Democritus, “happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” If you love what you do you will want to excel in your field by your own free will. Work will not feel like drudgery and there will be no boundaries for your own achievement.
- Count your blessings everyday. Every single day that passes by, know that you are blessed above and beyond several millions of other people. If you are physically fit, have food on the table and sanitary restroom facilities, you are living a life millions wish they had. As Winston Churchill said, “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
- Stop being so judgemental: Some people are staunch racists; some are religiously intolerant while others are homophobic. You don’t have to live their life. Let them live freely in their version of freedom and you can live in yours. Everyone has likes and dislikes, but that doesn’t give anyone the liberty to impose their beliefs on you.
Notice the small things
- Enjoy nature. The world is a beautiful place and all its inhabitants are blessed with so much prosperity. Take time to enjoy the sights of nature and the animals and the weather. Maybe you live close to a beach or a hillside, enjoy the environmental setting.
- Enjoy good company. One of the keys to happiness is to have a close group of friends who enjoy your company. Plan activities together, social events and get-togethers. At the end of the day you will feel happy.
- Keep yourself physically fit. Whether you have friends or not, you will always have yourself. You should always try to keep yourself as physically fit as possible. Work on your diet on a daily basis and work on your exercise on a daily basis as well. The important thing is not to achieve huge physical achievements, but to always keep moving and making progress.