What is the difference between a pessimist and an optimist? Expectations.
While the pessimist is determined to find fault with every life circumstance, the optimist maintains a bright outlook on life.
An optimist says that no matter what, there is something good that can be appreciated. No matter what terrible situation a person might find himself in, there is something positive that can be focused on. They're constantly looking for the silver lining, and their typical disposition is cheery.
The pessimist declares that everything is rainclouds and thunderstorms. No matter what tiny sliver of joy may exist, there is bound to be a catastrophe that will come along and smother it. Instead of looking for the good in life, it is better to expect the most terrible things. That way, you don't get blindsided by terribleness, and you're pleasantly surprised if something actually works out well.
People accuse optimists of being idealists. Pessimists are called 'jaded' and 'cynical'.
Who is right?
I propose that there is a happy medium, a compromise that combines the best of both: the idealistic realist.
Expecting nothing but the best will hurt more in the long run. Bad things happen. Stuff breaks, people will let you down, and traffic will occur at the most inconvenient times. Yet instead of imagining only doom and gloom or denying the inevitable trouble, it is best to combine the two by preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. In this way, you will not be blindsided or disappointed.
This can be taken a step further, however.
In order to move beyond your stereotypical optimist, there is an important element that must be added: thankfulness.
In addition to your preparations for the worst and hopeful expectations for the future, it is important to include an attitude of gratitude for what you have. Appreciate the beauty of nature and all that it offers. Enjoy the company of good friends and the humor and support they provide. Look past the responsibilities of school and appreciate the opportunity to widen the breadth of your knowledge.
Life is short, and then you die. Rather than spending it all by dwelling on negative thoughts, reorient your attitude to gratefulness. Raise your gaze, and appreciate the wonders that life offers. Count your blessings, and thank God for all that you have.
And most importantly, prepare for the future and for all of the potholes in life that you're bound to encounter.
Don't forget – there's always a silver lining on the horizon!