It’s not easy.
You give someone the benefit of the doubt, and they disappoint. You tell someone about your dreams, and they tell you to “be realistic.” You share your vulnerability with someone, and they take advantage of it.
It’s hard to know how to stay positive when bad things happen. Each negative experience chips away at your resolve, leaving you — well, tired.
Sometimes, you even feel a little naïve.
But you’ve seen good things happen, too. You’ve trusted people who had your back. You’ve known people who believed in you. You’ve experienced relationships that grew stronger after sharing vulnerabilities.
That makes a positive outlook worth it, every time. Even if things aren’t always rosy.
But you don’t want to be too positive. You want to be realistic. The kind of person who sees the best in everything, but isn’t off in la-la land.
So how do you maintain a rosy outlook without feeling naive?
1. Let Yourself Believe in Fantasy
In an ideal world, people would always be trustworthy, you’d succeed in everything you did, and only good things would happen. Your positivity would always be rewarded.
That’s a fantasy. But why not start there?
You can’t know which people you meet will be trustworthy, what endeavors will be successful, or when good things will happen. So consider approaching this uncertainty with the belief that the outcome will be positive.
Give Others the Best Gift You Can Give
Give people the benefit of the doubt.
You may have been burned in the past — by unhealthy relationships, demanding bosses, questionable friendships — but that doesn’t mean you will be burned next time. You can’t know.
It’s exhausting to hold up a shield everywhere you go. Especially when it can’t shield you from everything.
Put down your shield, every now and then, so you can fully embrace life: the good and the bad. And trust you can take the punches when they come. Use each punch as an opportunity to get stronger.
This isn’t to say things will be easy. It’s painful when doubts come true. But learning to restore faith after disappointment will help you move forward.
Your ability to be positive comes from within. Don’t let others’ actions take that power away from you. Because plenty of people—whether it’s a friend, co-worker, partner, or even complete stranger—deserve your positivity. And they’ll use it for good.
Act Like You Can’t Lose
When you set goals, you meet them or you don’t. It’s disheartening when you don’t. Are you not self-disciplined enough? Driven enough? Experienced enough?
Fair questions, but they’re not the first ones you should ask. Instead, ask yourself this:
“Am I positive enough?”
In other words: do you believe you can achieve your goals, overcoming any obstacles that stand in the way?
If the answer is no, know this: you are far more capable than you think. You just have to change the way you think.
Recognize your ability to improve in areas where you feel inadequate. If you lack self-discipline, practice it. If you don’t feel driven, discover what motivates you. If you’re inexperienced, seek new opportunities.
Adopt a winner’s mindset, and apply it to everything you do.
Then you’ll start to win.
Remember: Good Things Are Always Happening
Live like something good is about to happen. Because it is.
Good and bad things are happening at every moment.
Maybe you went through a painful breakup, and a true friend helped you through it. Maybe you bombed a job interview, and you identified areas of improvement for next time. Maybe you ran out of frozen pizzas, and you ate a healthy dinner instead.
You can choose to focus on the breakup, the bad interview, and the lack of frozen pizzas. Or you can recognize the good in true friends, lessons learned, and healthy dinners.
Try to identify the good things happening all around you, and it’ll start to feel like that’s all there is.
2. Let “Reality” Prove You Wrong, Sometimes
So you let yourself believe in fantasy. You gave people the benefit of the doubt, you adopted a winner’s mindset, and you focused on the good things. You acted under the assumption that the best would happen on all fronts.
You know what’s coming: reality — at least, in the typical sense of the word.
People say “back to reality” on Monday mornings when they head into work. They express desires and say, “but the reality is that ___.” Eminem said, “Snap back to reality, ope there goes gravity.”
“Reality” often refers to the bad stuff. It embodies all that is not fantasy. That can make reality a tough thing to deal with. There’s nothing more jarring than being yanked from a fantasy.
But you will be. And when you are, you shouldn’t feel naïve for having visited fantasy land. It’s not the bad place that people sometimes make it out to be.
It’s okay to predict a positive outcome and have the opposite happen. That makes you wrong–not naïve.
Both cynics and positivists will be wrong, at times. So why not be the positivist?
Remember: people who know how to stay positive are not out of touch with reality. They just see the good in things and envision the best outcome.
3. Know Fantasy and Reality Must Co-Exist
When you dream, you imagine something “better” than your reality. Maybe something like this:
Your not-too-loud alarm goes off, introducing you to Tuesday morning. You don’t even hate Tuesdays. You’re just excited to start the day.
You roll over and kiss your handsome partner on the cheek. He adores you, though he isn’t awake to express it, just yet.
You go for a morning run. Then you head to a career you love — a career where people respect, value, and support you. A career that you kick ass in.
After work, you’ll meet friends for happy hour. You can’t wait to tell them about the passion project you’ve been working on. And you’re thankful that today happens to be your “off” day from the gym . . .
Your reality might instead involve a partner who wakes up frustrated after last night’s argument. Or a career that’s less than satisfying. Or a life that’s short on friends, hobbies, and even fun.
You can feel defeated when reality doesn’t stack up to fantasy. Especially when you’re a positive person.
But fantasy and reality must co-exist. In fact, their co-existence gives you the best opportunity as a positive person: to bridge the gap.
Start by embracing your reality. Celebrate the great and learn from the not-so-great. Feel human — not naïve — when things don’t turn out like you’d hoped. And rock your rose-colored glasses. Be a positive realist.
Approach new people, goals, and experiences with the belief that the best can happen. Because, sometimes, it will.
Keep Your Rose-Colored Glasses On
Put on a pair of rose-colored glasses, and the world changes. You see what you couldn’t before.
Everything takes on a rosy glow, and the beauty of everything is more obvious than ever.
You’re lucky to have a pair. Not everyone does.
So don’t lose them. More importantly, don’t let the cynics take them away from you. Don’t let anyone tell you that your positivity is at the expense of your realism.
Just because you have a rosy view doesn’t mean you can’t see. You know not everyone has the best intentions. You know things don’t always work out. You know not every dream will come true.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t give things a chance.