I really love my readership. There's so many really cool, expansive, ass-kicking people here, and I'm glad you tune in and hang out. When someone comments or drops me a line, I'm thrilled.
Lately I've noticed something though - people seem to think I'm super-optimist.
Not the case at all.
Actually, I'd say my general mood comes out like this:
70% of the time: not thinking about it specifically or overall pessimistic
20% of the time: moderate optimism
10% of the time: feeling unstoppable
I don't think I'm alone here, either. Having read a lot of biographies and lots of books on doing high level work and creativity, you see constant references to doubt and pessimism.
There's this general cultural ethos that we should optimistic-positive-go!-go!-go! all the time. And yeah, I actually do think that's good. But I think doubt and pessimism are ok, as long as you take action anyways.
Obviously the 10% of the time I'm feeling on top of the world, I do great work. The 20% of the time I'm feeling moderately optimistic, I do good work. The real key, then, is to do at least decent work when feeling anywhere from not-inspired=-at-all to outright pessimistic.
It's especially challenging if you set stretch goals. Me, I'm not really so smart or talented, I know lots of people who are stronger-willed than me, smarter than me, more charismatic than me, better educated, more refined, healthier, with larger advantages... and yet, I set pretty high bars.
Doing this way lends itself to thinking, "Am I crazy? Am I nuts? If I'm not crazy, is everyone else crazy? I think this is possible... I run the numbers, and they work... I run the probabilities, and it works... it really all works on paper, if I can take the actions..."
And it seems like it should work, provided I take the action. But sure, some doubt and pessimism are fairly normal. Far more common than the totally unstoppable feeling.
But for me, the answer seems to be to keep moving forwards anyways. Okay, today this plan seems crazy and like it can't work, but I'm going to do whatever I had planned for today anyways. And... things often do work.
I think most people are naturally more pessimistic than optimistic - at least, they are when doing unfamiliar tasks outside of their comfort zone. That's okay. Do good work anyways even when feeling doubt. That's where established habits, routine, time tracking, unbreakable commitments, deadlines, and things like that help a lot.
You don't need to be a super-optimist to win. I'm naturally slightly more on the pessimist side. But I think about how an optimist act, and then I do that.
Hi Sebastian, another great post here. One of the things I appreciate most about your work is that you offer streams of useful advice without taking the "Yeah, I'm crushing it because life is awesome and I rock!" tone that eventually drives me away from other writers (initially that tone attracts me, but the novelty wears off amazingly fast).
It's always good to be reminded that higher-achieving and admirable people suffer from the same doubt and pessimism as the average guy out there. Reading blogs/books etc. we don't get a sense that the author also has downtime or motivational low points. Or that those points might actually be the majority of the time. Not realizing this is what keeps a lot of people out there from doing what they want -- they think "well, I'm not switched on all the time like that guy, so I'll just leave all the high achieving to people like that."
Whether it's on the track, in the gym or in front of a keyboard I've always been amazed by what it's possible to achieve when you just force yourself to do a little extra (or have someone behind you yelling at you to run an extra lap). Often the results are exactly the same as the times you're full of energy & inspiration. You're right: the answer isn't finding ways to feel unstoppable all the time, it's implementing the routines and structures to ensure activity continues whether motivation is there or not. Hmm, I need to pare this down to a slogan I can post on my wall for a while...
Nice post, awesome blog, I've been reading it on RSS for ages (can't even remember how I found it). After every post, I was reaching the tipping point, and after this one I knew it was time to at least comment!
I'm also usually pessimistic, and I also believe in just pushing forward and doing my best, maybe I'll get somewhere, I'll leave chance to decide. I found the following quote very vindicating:
"The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." - George Will
Now I'm not just another depressing negative person, I'm "logical"! But the pessimist in me says that I'm also probably wrong...
Sit down before you read this.
We've got to talk.
Look. This is going to piss you off. This is going to look like I'm causing problems.
I'm not causing problems. I'm just pointing out where problems already exist.
Yo guys~ so if any of you guys have been following my blog since I first started here on Sett, then you'll know that I kinda had a suspicion that I had depression/ I felt like I was a little more pessimistic and down than the average teen. However, since I had no actual medical diagnosis, I was happy to just go with 'I'm kinda more...aloof, than most teens'.
Well hey. I've finally got a proper diagnosis whiiiich turned out to beeee~~
Moderate to Severe Clinical Depression.
Eh ._. Ok despite what the medically knowledgable and well pretty much logical or sane people think, I still think I'm ok. So meh. Why? Cuz yeah fine I get suicidal and I'm pessimistic at times but I'm also super confident and loud and happy and outgoing and just cuz I have my low times - I'm depressed?
Hmm wait - more so, it's not that I don't think I don't have depression. It's kinda more like: so thats an abnormal thing? I just feel like pretty much everyone would have depression at some point in their life at varying degrees of severity. I know I'm wrong however and only about half the population suffer from depression.