Everybody is Realistic

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a respected colleague, who was replaying a conversation they had with a coworker. Their talk went something like this:

“If you’re always negative and keep letting the bad things from your past keep you down, you’ll never be able to make a better future for yourself.”

“I’m not negative, I’m just realistic.”

Now, the person telling me about this is fairly positive and leads a pretty successful life. We went on to discuss exactly what was meant by “realistic.”

See, it seems to me that lots of folks use “realistic” as a synonym for negative or pessimistic, and “positive” people are simply naiveinexperienced, or flat out ignorant of the bad things that happen to themselves and others.

Now it’s true that sometimes the reality is less positive than it’s perceived to be. We’ve all been on projects where someone sets an aggressive schedule for us that is in no way achievable. You know the feeling, and you’ve probably said something similar along the lines of “They can put whatever they want on the schedule, but they’ll be forced to square up with reality sooner or later.” So I understand that there’s positivity and then there’s putting on rose colored glasses.

But particularly when we’re thinking about our future, the scope of our entire career, and our long-term dreams and goals, there is a massive benefit to positivity. Positivity breeds proactivity. That sounds a little bit heady, so I’ll say it another way: if you think nothing you do will change the outcome of your future, you won’t do anything. And you can be darn well certain that if you don’t do anything about your future, it’s not going to be what you want it to be. This realization led me to the title of this post:

Everybody is realistic.

If you think you’re going to have a crappy future because of this and that — your upbringing was difficult, you’ve had disadvantages, bad things have happened to you — then yep, you’re realistic. You’re going to continue to allow yourself to be anchored down by all the baggage you carry.

On the flip side, you could see a bright and awesome future for yourself where you accomplish your goals and dreams, so you remain positive about your prospects and take action to make them a reality. And you’re also realistic.

Whatever you think you’re going to get, you’re probably right. So envision a better tomorrow and start getting after it today.