Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Optimism vs. Realism

Is it possible to be an optimist and realist at the same time?  If you're too optimistic, does that mean that you've got your head in the clouds and your a dreamer? Where does optimism stop and "dreamer state" start?  

On the other side of the coin, can someone be too realistic?  Does that mean you can't possibly accept anything without any cold hard facts to support it?  And if that's the case, then where does love fit into all of this?  Isn't falling in love completely optimistic?  Even die-hard realists fall sometimes...

If you look up optimism in the Thesaurus, it says to be hopeful, Pollyannaish, positive, upbeat. 
The dictionary defines optimism as a tendency to expect favorable outcome, to believe that good must ultimately prevail over evil. 

The Thesaurus says other words for realistic are practical, pragmatic, rational, down-to-earth, businesslike, levelheaded, sober.   The definition of realism is to regard things in their true nature, to deal with things as they are.  A policy of dealing with life based on facts, not ideals.

Being creative, living a creative life and moving forward on a creative career path, I struggle with these two concepts every day.  On one hand, I need to be stupidly optimistic (or a dreamer). On the other hand, my life demands more realism now than it ever has.  And let's face it:  I'm a dreamer.  Always have been.  I believe that people need to dream.  Without dreams, there's no hope.  

My son came home the other day (dreamer that he is).  He told me that he saw a poster at school and it said, "A dream is just a dream without action."  

So maybe the answer is:
          First you dream, 
  Then you act,
 Stay optimistic, 
  While remaining realistic?  


2KoP said...

I think you mean "realistic optimism". Or would it be "optimistic realism"? Thought you might be amused to know there is a blog post called Can You Be an Optimistic Realist? on a site (and I am not making this up) called Russian Brides Cyber Guide — a mailorder bride site.

Mary Driver said...

Nice essay! I vote for optimism over realism, simply because I think anyone who is creative has to be an optimist. What were the odds that an English fellow in the 16th century might knock out a bunch of plays that would be enjoyed by millions for over four hundred years? How about the little kid named Dickens who had to sit on the jail steps while his mother visited his father, who would become one of the greatest writers of all time? Then there is Frederick Douglass, an American slave, who taught himself to read and write to such a proficient degree that his words on "the hope of being free" still resonate today. Certainly, these are among the most hallowed of writers, but we lesser beings need our optimism, too. Without the hope that one person, somewhere, might say,"Gee, that's sort of an interesting idea," much of the magic would be gone.