Careers: Optimism & Realism to Be The One

Optimism and realism co-exist in many people. Do they in you? If yes, then you have the advantage.

Picture a decision maker about to decide who will be the one. It might be a leader about to delegate responsibility, a hiring manager interviewing job applicants, or an executive doing succession planning.

What will sway that decision maker to pick you to be the one? Beyond specific qualifications, a clear demonstration of both optimism and realism tips the scale your way.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~William Arthur Ward

Optimism & Realism - The Unbeatable Duo Image licensed from Istock.

The optimism in you will:

  1. Inspire innovation and propel success
  2. See possibilities that others don’t
  3. Encourage and engage others up
  4. Strengthen the resolve and commitment
  5. Energize during the last mile of the journey

Realism to Be The One

The realism in you will:

  1. Minimize risk by identifying and rejecting the truly impossible
  2. See the struggle and overcome it
  3. Know when to adjust course and do it
  4. Build strengths and counter-strengths to ensure success

When you have both optimism and realism, you outshine others that otherwise equal you in qualifications.

This duo makes you valuable in varied careers and roles:
As a leader, you will inspire and engage employees to action.
As a sales rep, you will dream big and deliver.
As a project manager, you will master the details yet the details will not become your master.

In truth, optimism and realism make you valuable in any career. What examples would you add to this list to showcase the value and power of having both?

We often think of that certain people as optimists and others as realists. Yet these traits are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to develop both optimism and realism with astonishing results for your career, the organization, your life, and all those your touch, mentor, and coach.

To strengthen your realism, spend time with realists.

  • Ask them what is it about practical suggestions and alternatives that makes them feel comfortable.
  • Then ask yourself, what about realism disillusions or blocks you? Are you confusing realism with pessimism? Understanding your own view is the path to finding both optimism and realism.

To heighten your optimism,

  • Start each day by reading an inspirational reading or viewing a short 2 minute video like The Power of Attitude or The Nature of Success. Inspirational thoughts and videos are the tangible expression of optimism.

    If just the thought of doing this makes you cringe, watch a video just once and then write down what about the lack of details makes you so uncomfortable.

  • Write down one positive result you have seen at work when others are inspired. After that if optimism still doesn’t move you, develop and embrace it just to tangibly lead others to the same place you are going — success.

I was inspired to write this post after participating in a chat on TwitterBeTheOne — founded and hosted by Mark Sturgell (@pdncoach) and Bridget Haymond (@BridgetHaymond).

Kudos to their optimism to see the possible value and realism to make it happen.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

23 Responses to “Careers: Optimism & Realism to Be The One”

  1. Joe Williams says:

    Nice post, Kate. I agree with you that seeking both optimism and realism is important to the successful leader. I offer that the successful leader also seeks to build teams that strike the right balance between the two within the team membership. Take for instance the situation at NASA, where we are in the midsts of a change in national human spaceflight policy. Some within and outside NASA are very optimistic about a future where commercial companies provide routine travel to and from space. Others are more pragmatic in the technical, financial, and legal challenges that have to be overcome by those same commercial companies. It takes a balance between pushing ahead with an optimistic view, and facing the realities, that leads to success.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      A wonderful real life example and important example Joe and I am grateful for your contribution. Adding balance to the team — as you say — is as important as individuals developing that balance within themselves.

      Some are naturally better optimism and some at realism. When individuals strengthen both, they increase the chance that they will listen to others and live the balance. The individuals win, the teams win, and the organization succeeds.

      Best wishes and many thanks,

  2. Thanks for this thought-provoking article. The idea of optimistic realism is great. Optimists know that we can do more, get more and be more that seems possible at first glance. I’ve always believed that optimism is the most realistic of viewpoints because the pessimistic attitude creates an ever-decreasing circle of possibilities.

    A also really like your advice for strengthening your ‘optimism muscles’ by starting each day with positive reading or videos. If I can be allowed a small plug here, I’d recommend my own site which many people use to get their daily ’15 minute fix’ of positive words and videos.

    I have a daily routine which I call my Power Hour where I review my goals, progress etc., and read or watch something positive. I find it incredibly empowering and it helps me to be even more productive. I find that a powerful way to combine optimism with realism.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Bravo Ash — your Power Hour is a tremendous idea. People could even build up to that by jump starting with your “15 min fix”. So glad you stopped by today to add and share.

      Warm regards,

  3. Excellent examples and list Kate. I agree that a mix of both optimism and realism are needed for success. An optimistic, can-do attitude is what makes us shine. Being realistic allows us strengthen our resolve and move forward intelligently and effectively. Together you have a winning combination.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Exactly Joan — moving forward intelligently and effectively. Not pie-eyed dreaming and chasing windmills and not complaining and decrying every possibility that others raise. You are a living example of the successful combination in motion.

      Other contributors to this post may want to tap Joan’s incredible biz building skills!

      Many thanks,

  4. You makes several excellent points in this post, Kate. Some people wonder why they don’t get picked for a specific project, job, etc. and often blame the decision-maker instead of looking within. They don’t realize that emotionally healthy people naturally seek the company of others who are optimistic/realistic by nature and avoid those who exude pessimism.

    I really like your specific suggestions on how to strengthen both optimism and realism. I believe, as you do, that we have the ability to alter our perspective by focusing on the development of these areas – i.e., we aren’t “stuck” as being an optimist, pessimist, or realist.

    My favorite author on this topic of optimism is Martin Seligman. I read his book, Learned Optimism, almost 20 years ago. The self-assessment in that book opened my eyes to ways I’d been sabotaging myself and forever altered the way I responded to situations. I highly recommend all his books for those who wants to develop both optimism and realism.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Meredith — Many thanks for your perspective that optimistic/realistic decision makers seek out those like them. A special thank you for adding a book recommendation for all those who want to work on their optimism. I hope you will share your perspective on any post of interest and visit often.

      I encourage other contributors to this post to visit your blog Your Voice of Encouragement for inspiration and insights!


  5. Mike Ramer says:

    Hi Kate,

    Your post really hit home for me. Well written and excellent thoughts. I’m glad @dave_carpenter RTed it and I read it!

    When people ask me to describe myself, I respond: “I’m an optimistic realist.” It is, as you write, a fine “balance”. The optimist in me believes he can achieve most anything he sets his mind to. The realist pulls me in check working with ever changing variables and parameters.

    The best leaders – those who dream big, inspire and achieve results – these are the people who take calculated risks and have a strong sense-of-self. These are the people I seek out in my personal and business life. These are the ones I am excited to meet and learn from.

    A wise mentor once said to me, “Mike, if you really, really want something and you never ever give up, you’ll almost always get what you want.” That’s a bit of old-fashioned optimist + realist advice, don’t you think?

    Best, Mike

    P.S. I see you are in (908) area code. I am also in New Jersey (973). Hoping our IRL paths cross soon!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Dear Mike,
      Thanks for visiting my blog and of course thanks to Dave Carpenter for connecting us. I like your phrase optimistic realist and I do agree that there is a bit of old-fashioned wisdom in it. The older I get the more the old seems new 🙂

      Yes, I am in NJ and would be very pleased to meet you in person. Combining online and face-to-face networking delivers the true business relationship.

      Best to you,

  6. Gary Loper says:

    Enjoyed your post and can identify with the combination of Optimist?Realist – sadly like many Entrepreneur we all tend to be so optimistic in our goal setting, even if it is simply our daily goals, and than spend the day kicking ourselves because we are accomplishing all we set out to do. So integrating a more realistic mindset can be the path to accomplishing more with much less stress.

    Surrounding yourself with people who will positively support you and filling up on uplifting messages are vital. We become the sum of the 5 people we associate with the most. It may be time to upgrade your friends and deleting the dream stealers.

    When I work with clients, we focus on becoming fully aware of what is within their grasp and where they may need to re-prioritize or hire help
    to realistically achieve their optimistic goals.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I’m with you, “delete the dream stealers” from our personal lives. You counsel many people trying to change their lives and your advice “Surrounding yourself with people who will positively support you and filling up on uplifting messages are vital” is sound.

      I think the key is to be able to uplift others while still offering realistic advice and not kill the dream in the process.

      Thanks for sharing your professional insight here.
      All the best,

  7. Kate,

    I started down a path in a business relationship with someone who turned out to be very negative and pessimistic. It didn’t work out because that type of energy is not beneficial to my future plans.

    I am the realistic optimist that you speak of. Thank you for defining this for all of us. As I was reading I was saying to myself, “Yes, uh huh, exactly, Yep, totally agree”.

    The exact opposite of the O/R is a person who cowers from fear and cannot overcome the “what ifs” in life. They become paralyzed by the boogeyman who may or may not appear.

    I don’t believe in the boogeyman of bad things to come. I believe in me and my abilities.

    I’ll be retweeting this today.


  8. Hi Kate,
    I agree with the need for both Optimism and Realism. My take is that they both exist on what I call the Power Spectrum which is different to the one we have been traditionally ‘sold’. That’s the one that goes from ‘negative’ to ‘neutral’ to ‘positive’. The challenge is that there is no “action imperative” in being positive. Optimism has an implied action in its definition of being about a search for the best possible outcome. So, I believe that the spectrum that gives us the best results is negative -> realistic -> optimistic.
    If we could all approach our opportunities with optimism, we’d all get better outcomes!
    Yours optimistically, Helen 🙂

  9. Mila Araujo says:

    Kate, I really enjoyed this post. You always have a way of cutting to the most important details with great clear examples. I never thought about a lot of these things as optimism and realism – but you’re right on. As I was reading, I was thinking, I really wish I could get everyone on my team to “get” this more, then I get to your next part of the post, and you’ve presented some very strong ways to do this! Thank you so much- ill be sharing this with my team for sure. Incredibly helpful and well portrayed! – big smiles in reaction I this one! #gratitude

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I am so moved by your comment. When I write it is from experiences and observations that I hope will touch and help others. Your comment is very gratifying and I am so pleased it will help you and your team.

      If you ever need more assistance in this regard, I am just a phone call away.

      Warmest regards,

  10. Jesse Stoner says:

    Another excellent post, Kate. Optimism and pessimism are polarities. Rather than swinging back and forth between the two poles, we need to learn how to manage the upside of both. You offer great advice here.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks Jesse. Much of the challenge seems to come from people’s misunderstanding of what the other “polarity” is. Thus they shy away from it.

      From my perspective, optimism is always there and the realism decides not when to give up but when to shift course.

      Thanks again Jesse for weighing in on this topic!

  11. Lacee Thomas says:

    I couldn’t agree more that the blend of both is best for leadership roles and that these shouldn’t be seen as mutually exclusive. It is so refreshing to come across a leader who can not only look at things and see the up side to them but also intuitively know how to adjust and plan for the scenario where the task at hand chages or falls through. It helps a team stay cohesive, focused, and successful.

    Thank you for calling this out!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Lacee. I agree that working with a leader who sees this balance lifts everyone to a new level of sustained positive performance.

      Hope you will visit here often and offer your insight and links to other great resources.

      Warmest thanks,

  12. Kent Julian says:

    Love this, Kate. Great insights! Indeed, the combo of optimism and realism is usually a major key to success. In fact, your quote says it all: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~William Arthur Ward // Excellent!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many thanks Kent. So much binary thinking gets people into trouble. Being optimistic and realistic definitely co-exists and is a winner!

      Grateful for your comment.
      Warmest wishes,

KateNasser on Facebook KateNasser Blog KateNasser on Twitter KateNasser on LinkedIn KateNasser on Pinterest