Ask Biella: “Is it better to be realistic rather than being optimistic?”

Ask Biella - Optimism and Realism


Dear Amirul, if we are truly realistic, we also have to be optimistic. 🙂 Maybe it doesn’t seem so, but let’s look into it more closely.

By realistic, I take it you mean taking into account the negativity of the world. Or maybe you mean realistic in a personal sense. As in realistic about your prospects, the possibilities of improvement in your life. Or perhaps realistic about winning the lottery or something similar happening that is a low probability.

Ask Biella - Optimism and Realism

By optimistic, since it’s an either/or choice, I assume you mean optimism is a perspective and attitude that ignores those smaller statistical chances of positivity or ignores the negativity that exists. But why does optimism have to be a distorted perspective? Why can’t we be optimistic and realistic at the same time?

Positive History

Looking back at history, even history within memory of most alive today, we see matters have improved considerably. Not only that, but throughout history humans have continued to exist, to multiply, to thrive. Yes, there are periods in certain parts of the world when things were negative, like plagues, famine, wars, and so on. But, when we look at the whole of humanity, at all of history, we see that those instances are really exceptions. Statistically that is.

History does not record the vast preponderance of people that went about their daily business untouched by those negative happenings. It’s not recorded because it doesn’t stand out. For historians, that’s boring. But for us, it’s most exciting. Not only does it mean that most people most of the time were not subject to gross negative circumstances, but people continued, on the whole to learn, to grow, to add to the world, and to survive and multiply.

Humanity has continued to evolve, especially in societal and civilisation terms. Recently, as in the 20th and 21st century, that evolution, especially in wealth terms, has dramatically increased. Take the simple mobile phone. Everyone has one. In historic wealth terms, the mobile represents more wealth than people could access in a lifetime. It’s a simple thing, but look how phenomenally it has changed our lives. We have connection, access. We can connect to anyone, we can access the knowledge of the world and the ages, not to mention entertainment, that was otherwise inaccessible to our ancestors.

The internet, and its connectivity is a wealth that is immeasurable. Because now, in the 21st century, the bulk of humanity, for the first time ever, has access to equal opportunity to learn. It doesn’t really matter how rich you are, where you are born, your skin colour, ethnicity or nationality, with a little effort, pretty much anyone can access this wealth of possibility and opportunity.

This is the reality of the world we live in now. The reality is that on the whole, things keep getting better. The rate of improvement is accelerating dramatically. Every day, every minute, every second really, somewhere, someone is improving the world in some way. And with the internet, that improvement gets to the entire world. It doesn’t just stay local, like it used to in the old days. This ever-improving reality is a positivity we have to include when we are being realistic. We are on an ever-improving positive trajectory. That’s the fact of the matter when we look at the overall situation.

Ask Biella - Optimism and Realism

Personal Optimism

But what about personally, individually? We might look around at our own personal individual circumstances and see little hope or possibility of change. But then again, look back even ten or twenty years, and look how different things were locally. Improvements, via technology, connectivity, the spreading knowledge and learning, is reaching everywhere, even in the most remote places. Something that’s real and happening, something massively optimistic.  

Still you might say, the chances of me winning the lottery are extremely small, or of something life-changing like that happening. But I say, when being utterly realistic, what you have IS a chance. You 100% have a chance of something possibly happening, as opposed to a certainty that you have no chance at all. That’s a real fact. And so, again, it’s something to be optimistic about. Having a chance, no matter how tiny, is infinitely better than definitely having no hope at all.

Being realistic is thus being optimistic also. If we think about it, that is Life. Life is optimistic and realistic. Life persists, thrives, continues on, prospers. Life wants to live. This is realistic optimism. If we know the reality, and still want to continue living, that’s us being realistic and optimistic. Being truly realistic means we are also simultaneously optimistic. For me they are the same. All we have to do is look at matters from an Overview Perspective to see the bigger picture, that’s where realism and positivity merge into our realistic optimism. And well, to quote the Young Man:

When in Doubt, Zoom Out.


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A Contemporary Philosopher and Writer, who exercises a glorious intellectual mind that is most admirable for its profundity and sharpness. Often offering multiple sides of an argument, and provoking self-introspection. Their aim is to uncover Appropriateness, Awareness, Attention, Application, Attunement, and more, with a unique, high-level understanding of the profound intricacies that interlace these concepts.

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