Welcome back to Part 2 of my Trifecta of Tribulations series! If you haven’t already, make sure to read Part 1 here to catch yourself up on the hefty history that has gone behind my recent revelation.
So in questioning whether or not my optimism was a complete ruse or not, I’ve come to learn something vital about it and its counterpart pessimism:
They’re both real and authentic expressions of myself, and that they are both valuable when one of them is needed more than the other.
Optimism in the Underworld
Ever since I read Awakening the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery. It sounds so bloody obvious now, but back when I first read his book, I was surprised by one section challenging me to try and think positively for a week and see what difference it makes.
As a teen, once again, pessimism was my default mode of operation, so to read this idea of “try to think positively for a week and start over again if you catch yourself thinking negatively,” was actually quite the life changer for me.
And so now for 10 years I’ve read a long list or self-help and personal development books, have gone to workshops, and journalled extensively to get a better sense of myself. For a long time I would write in my journal about how great life is or how great it could be so I can comfort that part of me that has long been withering and toiling away within me.
It took some work, but I think I’m in a place now where my optimism can bring hope in even the bleakest of situations. Whenever I am confronted with personal struggles whether with others or within myself, I try to see what the situation is trying to teach me and how I can grow from it, even when the situation is at its most painful.
Like the friends I mentioned in part 1–my creative accountability buddy and my lovely study buddy–having my disagreements with them were highly charged with emotion. Even though I was having such difficult conversations with them that drained me throughout the week, I stood firm trying to keep myself open to what they had to say.
One of my favourite rules from Jordan Peterson’s best selling book 12 Rules For Life: an Antidote For Chaos is “always assume that the person you’re listening to knows something you don’t.”
So despite of how painful it was and how tempting it was to hold onto my positions, these two friends of mine revealed some glaring flaws in the way I was thinking, speaking, and behaving that I had to improve on. I could get into detail about those in a later post since they’re too complex to fit in within the context of this post–but that’s an example of how my 60:40 principle helped me survive.
These were difficult conversations that could have easily gone sour if I were to fight back and tell them off. But then I would be refusing to listen to anything what they had to say, thus missing out on what changed I needed to make within myself. Likewise, if I didn’t meet them in the middle, I wouldn’t have been able to return the favour to carefully show them where they could improve as well.
No matter how hard things get, I always try to keep a 60:40 ratio of Optimism over Pessimism so that I don’t lose my head, and so that I can focus on creating a more beneficial outcome than what seems possible at the present moment.
Pessimism in Heaven
Now by that same token though, I think it’s also important to engage a little bit of pessimism since it can also be helpful as I briefly touched upon in Part 1 of this series.
While it is easy to write off Pessimism for the obvious evil that is and how it can dibilitate you from taking any action in life, excess of optimism can also be a problem.
The way I see it is that Optimism and Pessimism are two sides of the same coin, or better yet two, sides of a pendulum constantly swaying side by side. The more you swing in one direction, the more you swing back in the other.
What happened to me a couple weeks ago was that I set my sights way too high and had an excess of optimism. I wanted to ignore all the challenges I’d be met with in navigating the writing of my novel and of course navigating some romantic feelings I was developing for a woman I’ve been studying Korean with and teaching English to.
Most pessimists will write off Optimism as childish naivety, and to some degree they would be right, but only when it is excessive and ignores possible roadblocks along the way.
So due to setting my optimistic sights too high I plunged even harder and deeper into the ground. I expected myself to start writing 5000 words a day like I was doing in March, even though realistically it took a few days to work up toward having that kind of resilience. And by then I had been struggling between 300-1000 words so how could I expect to make that jump?
Coupled with that I was expecting myself to become fluent in Korean to understand K-Pop lyrics and my language exchange friends, but then got upset seeing so many of my poorly constructed sentences corrected. And even though the whole point of language exchange was to help correct and improve each other, I started feeling down on myself for still not being as good as I could be.
Then of course there’s also the confusion around the feelings I was developing over the one study buddy I’ve been talking to day and night for about a month now, so there was the added challenge of us trying to express our feelings to and for each other in each other’s languages all despite our limited understanding of each others languages. Like dear God, what did I expect? In regular relationships between people who speak the same language sometimes kind of not speak the same language as they are prone to miscommunications and misunderstandings.
So what the hell kind of romantic relationship did I expect when the both of us still have to rely on translators most of the time to understand each other? Not to mention how poorly translators are in their word choice accuracy which can sometimes cause some hilarious moments, but in our case it caused some serious harm to our relationship due to just two words that were poorly translated from English to Korean.
Again, that’s a whole story for another time and I would only share a few more details about it if I got her permission first as to how much I could share. But in the context of this post, the way I see it is this: it felt like Heaven to have someone to talk and flirt with on a daily basis, and I ended up taking it too seriously than I should have.
Realizing how hard I was falling for her, it actually helped to engage a bit of my Pessimism. It reminded that we live in different time zones, we barely understand each other’s languages, and aside from all the teasing we do, there’s still a huge gap between that and simply having small talk for language practice. It’s a cold harsh truth that the chances of us meeting anytime soon or if she would even want to are pretty slim and again, I’m practicing the necessary humiliation that comes with listening to views that don’t align with what’s convenient to me.
The 60:40 Principle
So thanks to all this I have developed a principle for myself to live by, which is to carefully swing between 60:40 Optimism over Pessimism and 60:40 Pessimism over Optimism whenever either one is necessary.
This means that if things are going horribly, it helps to have 60% Optimism so that I can see the positive outcomes possible for myself. The number 60% is a reasonable median above 50% so that I have just enough of a push forward to seek a positive outcome, while also not being too optimistic as to put all my eggs in one basket. The 40% Pessimism is to remind me that things can take a worse turn and I need to be prepared if it has to come to that. This way I don’t get too disappointed if my first few attempts at solving a problem don’t go the way I plan.
Then on the flipside, whenever things are going too well, I learned to maintain 60% Pessimism to truly appreciate whatever happiness comes my way since it’s ever fleeting. This could be seen as possible self sabotage which is why I try to keep it at 60% as opposed to 70% or 50%. Any higher than 60%, then I would self sabotage, and any lower, then I’m just stagnant. For me 60% is just right. The 40% Optimism is what allows me to maintain the positivity flowing in the present moment, and the 60% Pessimism is what helps me accept that it can be gone at any moment so I don’t get too hurt if it comes to that. This way I don’t get too comfortable when things are going well because I know I will always have more ways in which I can grow and that’s only possible if I allow challenges into my life.
To Be Continued…
Alright, these posts are getting longer than I expected, after all these years of trying to keep them down to 1000 words or below for more digestable experiences.
To take the principle in this post 60% of me is Optimistic that my writing is engaging enough to continue reading and glean value from, but for 40% of my Pessimism is also considering the possibility that I may have bored you with how long winded this was.
Either way, as always, I do hope you have gained some value from reading today’s Meaningful Monday post!
Let me know what you think as I’m always open to any compliments and criticisms, and I’ll see you next time in Part 3 of my Trifecta of Tribulations series…