Realistic Optimist – Why That’s the Sensible Balance

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Glass half empty half full realistic optimist-

Technically, the glass is half empty and half full. I’m not one for clichés but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use this visual . As a realistic optimist, that’s my answer to that proverbial question.

When I tell someone that I’m a realist, in order to emphasize why I don’t foresee the unlikely outcome they do in a situation, it’s usually followed by, “Well, I’m an optimist!” Then it gets really interesting when I tell them that I’m also an optimist. I look at them; they look at me. Confused… they don’t understand… have questions…

Because optimists are generally perceived as people who simply hope for the best, others figure that if I’m a realist, then I can’t possibly be a positive thinker. It is a TASK attempting to explain that I am indeed a realistic optimist and that these are not antonyms as is commonly perceived.

As a REAList, I …

  • Am logically aware of the reality of the situation.
  • Can make logical distinction between what is and what can potentially be.
  • Make a reasonable assessment about the most probable outcome.

As an OPTIMist, I …

  • Believe the situation is not the worst it can be, because generally it can be worse.
  • Do what I can to produce the best outcome.
  • Hope for the best outcome, and may even get excited about it.


As with most (or all) things in life, there is a balance. A realistic optimist is that balance between optimism, pessimism, and a form of extreme optimism. So it appears that the key is in what type of optimist you are. Positive / happiness psychology researcher and author, Shawn Achor, explains rational vs. irrational optimist. 

In short, a rational optimist finds middle ground between reality and hope. As opposed to an irrational optimist, who has unrealistic positive expectations.

If you are a pessimist or irrational optimist and want to find some balance, there is hope for you yet! There are tricks and strategies for becoming more positive minded. If you don’t think it’s worth the effort, maybe the benefits below will persuade you. Besides, do you want to be THAT guy? You know the one, often voicing his negative thoughts and expectations. The grump others dread being around.


There are many benefits of being an optimist. Here are just a few:

If that does convince you, then here’s to hoping (wink!).


Which are you – a rational optimist, an irrational optimist, or a pessimist?

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill


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