Golem IV - Rise of MELOG
Original Post
Optimism vs Pessimism vs Realism
Which mode of thinking is the most conducive to living a happy life?

Why? No shitposts.
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Been thinking about this a fair bit recently. I'm tending to think some hybrid of pessimism and realism is best.

Optimism just seems cruel. The world is not a happy-go-lucky perfect utopia, as advertising and your friends' 'social masks' on Facebook would lead you to believe. If you're always viewing things as an optimist, expecting things to turn out well, you get crushed when your expectations are subverted and things don't go your way.

If we take pessimism, then we think that things won't go our way. Our expectations are low. When these expectations get subverted, we are elated.

If we take realism, then we rationally calibrate our expectations based on the situation at hand. Because our expectations are in line with reality, they don't often get subverted. If they do get subverted, then rather than elation or disappointed, what do we get... Surprised? Take realism if you like surprises I guess.

Happiness has been conceptionalised before as reality minus expectations. If this is the case, then that equation can be solved pretty quickly. We can say reality = 1, realism = 1, optimism (must be higher than reality) = 1.5 and pessimism = 0.5.

Realism gives us nothing. You get 0.
Optimism gives us a negative value. You get -0.5
Only pessimism gives us a positive number. 0.5

It's probably (definitely) not as simple that, but we can use this common conceptualisation of a 'happiness formula' to explain how low/negative expectations can actually result in something positive.

I'm not saying be a negative nelly/party pooper all the time. Seneca and the rest of the stoics of the time would start their days with a chant/meditation on how horrible the day ahead would be (so when it ain't bad, they're all g - and if it is bad, well they expected that). I ain't saying that.

If you're negative all the time, always looking for the worst in things, I bet you could delude yourself into depression. I wouldn't want to hang around thinking the world is so horrible and awful all the time, and I bet no-one else would wanna hang around with me either. It definitely doesn't seem healthy. So I ain't saying that.

I just reckon that, when facing 'big' situations, I think it might be best to approach it pessimistically, so as to avoid 'big' disappointment (and engender fantastic elation if the negative expectation does get subverted). For most other situations, probably be best to take a realist approach. I expect there'll be places where sprinkling in some optimism would be appropriate (supporting people/giving them confidence).

As I said at the start, these are just my current thoughts about it. They've very malleable right now - Not committed to anything yet. What do you think?
Last edited by Ele; Feb 10, 2020 at 06:34 PM.
If you're going to take those three things into account, you have to also take time and expectations into account. Being optimistic isn't the same as expecting great things. Your ability to live in the moment (realism) combined with (optimism) is how you can live optimally. The issue with pessimism, is that even good things will end up seeming bad because of your induced (realism). What is real is not something human emotion can logically just shrug off.


That is why the argument is really usually just optimism vs pessimism.


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Originally Posted by Greg
If you're going to take those three things into account, you have to also take time and expectations into account

Not sure what you mean by time, but optimism/realism/pessimism all already have to do with expectations, don't they? Being optimistic about something means you have high hopes (expecations) about the future. Pessimism is the reverse. Realism is about having your expectations in line with reality. Right?
Originally Posted by Greg
Your ability to live in the moment (realism) combined with (optimism) is how you can live optimally.

Why?
Originally Posted by Greg
The issue with pessimism, is that even good things will end up seeming bad because of your induced (realism). What is real is not something human emotion can logically just shrug off

Not sure I understand what you're saying here. Can you rephrase?
Last edited by Ele; Feb 10, 2020 at 07:22 PM.
You can be optimistic while understanding what's likely or realistic. That's how I operate. I don't really dislike the "outcomes", I just enjoy the processes. Being optimistic is about not dwelling on the future for me. Optimism is the acceptance of realism. Pessimism is the rejection of realism.
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
I think you can't always limit yourself to one way all the time.
Its a mix between every given attribute in its natural form.
everybody has affinity for different things, even if the personal focus is elsewhere
if you don't have the affinity for different stuff, your ability may be restricted
Enjoint life
Originally Posted by Greg
You can be optimistic while understanding what's likely or realistic.

Mhm, so you subscribe to realistic optimism (or optimistic realism).
Originally Posted by Greg
Optimism is the acceptance of realism. Pessimism is the rejection of realism.

So you're saying that realism is just reality (and not to do having 'realistic expectations') then to be optimistic means to accept what's going on in the world and to be pessimistic means to refuse to accept it?
What does it mean to be a realist then? What is a realist to realism? It can't be an acceptance of realism, cus that's optimism according to your view.

Originally Posted by Smaiva View Post
I think you can't always limit yourself to one way all the time.

I agree with that.
Originally Posted by Smaiva View Post
everybody has affinity for different things, even if the personal focus is elsewhere

What's your affinity (optimist, pessimist, realist) - What's your mix? Why?
Last edited by Ele; Feb 10, 2020 at 07:54 PM.
Originally Posted by Smaiva View Post
I think you can't always limit yourself to one way all the time.
Its a mix between every given attribute in its natural form.
everybody has affinity for different things, even if the personal focus is elsewhere
if you don't have the affinity for different stuff, your ability may be restricted


That's a logical interpretation of acceptance
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I think realism can be whatever you want it to be in terms of optimism or pessimism Ele.
Last edited by Greg; Feb 10, 2020 at 07:47 PM. Reason: <24 hour edit/bump
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Originally Posted by Greg
I think realism can be whatever you want it to be in terms of optimism or pessimism Ele

I didn't ask what realism was though. I asked you what it meant (for you) to be a realist and what's the relationship a realist has to realism?

You said an optimist accepts realism and a pessimist rejects it. What does a realist do with it?

I think you run into some problems when you divorce expectations from your definitions. It's not just about accepting or rejecting reality. It's to do with how you expect things to go. That said, you said earlier you think optimism blended with realism is the optimal route to happiness. Can you explain why that is?
Last edited by Ele; Feb 10, 2020 at 08:03 PM.
Well, I guess you can say I don't believe in the term "realist". Delusional people exist of course through mental ideologies, but realistic people are just those who aren't delusional, which is definitely a word thrown around ignorantly in my opinion.
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Among the pessimistic category I've met people who take on adversity with confidence and those who wither in its face. The first are mostly successful teachers, leaders, workers and artists, the latter often lead a simple life, sometimes with dissatisfaction. I can imagine there are other variables that will stop me from claiming one way of living as better than the others. Although I personally can't stand being around optimistic people for too long. I'm not sure what my team is but most of my friends would probably classify me as realist.

Even though optimistic people are prone to being hit by reality, they seem to always bounce back and easily find joy in things others wouldn't. I don't know what the connection is but I'm confident there is one.

I think most people would defend their "ideology" when confronted with this question. I can certainly think of situations in which being more optimistic would benefit me, but I wouldn't want to become one because my modus operandi has benefitted me just as often. As for "big situations", a pessimist might fare better and therefore be happier when it counts, but an optimist can argue that they're generally happier in their day-to-day life. Even if the pessimist strikes the life changing job opportunity, they'll spend their working days concerned and cautious. I know 80+ year old people who are frugal, skeptical and pessimistic. At this point I can't help but believe it's intrinsic to their nature.
I do agree that one should try to be versatile in their way of thinking depending in the situation. Learning to make those decisions is a problem in itself.
Last edited by pusga; Feb 10, 2020 at 08:27 PM.
oh yeah