Posted on November 19, 2021 at 11:07 p.m.
You can dismiss the answer as common language, a way for an athlete to avoid the question. This can be heard at a post-game press conference when a reporter asks a team’s game star in the middle of a late-season pitch what their odds are of winning it all.
“We’re just trying to keep things real,” he will say. And he will not say more on the matter.
While his answer may very well be an effort to sidestep the question, it doesn’t have to be. His team may have done very well in “Keeping it real” – being authentic and rational about success and season – their mission statement and embracing that phrase as a philosophy.
In an article for WebMD, “Why Realistic Thinking Is Better Than Optimistic Thinking,” Martin Taylor sees realistic thinking as a kind of refuge between optimistic thinking and pessimistic thinking. He says realistic thinking leads to reasonable expectations and less stress – results that can certainly help you in your quest for optimal health and fitness.
Thinking too optimistically, Taylor warns, creates disappointment when results don’t immediately measure up. Repeated disappointments breed anxiety.
Realistic thinking, however, alleviates or even eliminates these feelings, a much better situation for your mental and physical health. To illustrate, consider a study published in the July 2020 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Using what they call “two well-established indicators of well-being” and focusing on finances, the researchers measured “long-term well-being” each year and for 18 years in over 18 years. 1600 Britons considered optimistic, pessimistic or realistic. They found that not only did pessimism reduce long-term well-being by 21.8%, but optimism also reduced it by 13.5%.
The second number is actually more remarkable because unrealistic optimism is everywhere. The aforementioned study cites another which sometimes concludes that over 80% of all people are guilty of it and “display an optimistic bias.”
More water in the mill to keep it real: many studies have also shown that “positive results are more pleasant when they are unexpected”. So how can you make sure that the lenses through which you see your health and fitness – and the world, really – are clear rather than pink?
This answer is complex – so complex that I myself would be guilty of unrealistic optimism to believe that a single column could contain it. But with the help of The Perfect Advise.com, this review can at least cleanse the stains from any type of glasses you currently wear by offering these three suggestions:
1. Increase the time between the ups and downs of life and your reaction to them
I love the word “corybantique”. It means wild, frenzied, and I’ve been looking for ways to use it in a column for months.
It’s probably an apt word to describe too much of your typical day. And when things get crazy and frantic, whether good or bad, we often react to them the same way.
If your unrealistic optimism doesn’t come true, you usually say the opposite. This pessimistic statement can take hold of your mind and corrupt your entire thought process – unless you recognize it as a ‘mistake’ and then make suggestion number 2.
2. Think about the mistakes made and eliminate their causes.
My love of quotes led me to write some of my own. A post-it affixed to a piece of furniture in my writing room contains the following: “Errors don’t remain errors if you stay attentive.
As clever as this sighting may be – if it is clever at all – it is certainly a Catch-22, because truly conscious people don’t make mistakes. Think about it: you only spill the orange juice early in the morning when your mind is focused on something other than pouring the juice and collecting the glass.
It’s simple enough, but being totally attentive to all the trivial tasks throughout the day is truly an impossibility, something even the most faithful of monks never achieves.
So what we really mean here is to be sure to raise your awareness as soon as you make a mistake. Don’t laugh at it. Think about it.
And in order to do that, you need to make suggestion number 3.
3. Practice mindfulness
To help explain mindfulness, The Perfect Advise.com explains what Buddhists consider its opposite and call the monkey mind, when your mind “jumps from thought to thought without any self-control.” Mindfulness is nothing more than the awareness of the monkey mind and the subtle redirecting of your thoughts to what is happening here and now.
This redirect allows you to rationally consider any situation and keeps you from choosing and focusing on the facts that will help and encourage your unwarranted optimism or pessimism.