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Image / Editorial

Watch: Why A Little Pessimism Is Good For You


by Jennifer McShane
23rd Aug 2015

As well as being optimistic, a little pessimism is okay too.

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We’re all about focusing on the brighter side of life as much as we can here at IMAGE.ie. We know it can be the smallest of things that can make you feel uplifted and happy, but on the flip side of that, we know it isn’t possible to have a sunny, optimistic outlook all the time. A little bit of pessimism isn’t necessarily?a bad thing, in fact, some interesting research has found that getting in touch with our pessimistic side can actually benefit us, and help us achieve our goals.

When it comes to optimism, according to a study, the ?everything in moderation? approach is a good one to go by, as one researcher found that too much optimism could limit us.?? This doesn’t mean you should hinder your sunny outlook on life in any way, but it reinforces the fact that a little pessimism in life is okay, and could work as a motivator.

We know it sounds odd, but Gabriele Oettingen, a German psychologist, who has been studying optimism since the 1980s came up with some interesting findings on this topic.

Firstly, in 1991, she studied a group of women for an experiment on weight loss. Interestingly enough, she found that the women who were pessimistic about their weight loss (meaning they thought the process would be too difficult, or they wouldn’t reach their goal weight), actually lost more weight than women who were more optimistic about their weight loss. 24 pounds more to be exact.

Over the next twenty years, she studied extensively about people and their working towards goals and constantly found that being overly optimistic actually got in the way of achieving them.

As well as being optimistic, a little pessimism is okay too.
As well as being optimistic, a little pessimism is okay too.

Her theory after all the years of research is this: Pessimism can be beneficial because it’s a better motivator than optimism. Indulging in optimistic fantasies about the future prevent us from working hard on the tasks at hand in the present. So, instead of studying for that exam you need to pass, you just happily imagine yourself passing and aren’t as inclined to focus on doing the actual work.

It really makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Oettingen however, doesn’t recommend that you spend all your days being pessimistic, but recommends a good balance between the two beliefs, which she refers to as WOOP. First, think about your Wish. Then, think about the Outcome. Then, think about your Obstacles. And finally, come up with a Plan to work against your obstacles in order to achieve your wish.

This is also explained in the video above.

Some food for thought this Sunday afternoon, what do you make of this?

Via Science of Us

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