Your reality is what you make it
Optimism tends to travel hand in hand with goal setting and living a life of purpose.
Being labeled an optimist, however, implies that you may be a little out of touch with reality.
Cynicism is the flag bearer for not bothering to develop any expectations, other than negative ones, because nothing is going to work out anyway.
Being labeled a cynic indicates that you do understand the point and are involved in the discussion of what to do and how to do it, but you are inclined to think that whatever is being contemplated is flawed and it won’t turn out as intended.
For all of these reasons, few people view themselves as purely an optimist or a cynic, and virtually no one solely subscribes to pure optimism or constant cynicism. Generally speaking, people are more likely to define themselves as realists.
So, what does that mean? Your reality is what you make it and yes, this is a direct reference to the importance of your mindset, the topic of a recent Serial Decision Maker article.
By definition, my reality is going to be different than your reality and you are going to look at my reality differently than you look at your own. If no definition of reality is going to match and we agree that reality is purely a derivative of your perception, then what does it mean to be a realist? I think it means that everyone is a realist. It is a term that applies to everyone and, therefore, applies to no one.
As I was contemplating all of this, I decided that I would try to define my version of reality and its place in my decision-making and this is what I determined. I am a cynical optimist. Let me explain.
I believe that there are consequences for every action I take and every decision I make. I believe that same correlation exists for you and the actions you take and decisions you make. I also believe that those consequences aren’t always realized or understood in a time frame that is consistent with the action taken.
I believe that good almost always wins out over evil, but I have grown to realize that sometimes I have to be extraordinarily patient before that victory occurs.
I believe that all of the events and happenings in my life have a way of eventually establishing an equilibrium. I try not to go forward hoping that every day will be great. Rather, I approach each day with the realization that it isn’t promised to me. I believe that I am the one who is most responsible for my own positive experiences and if I pray for anything for myself, it is for the strength to handle whatever circumstances I encounter.
I also believe that no matter what appears to be the case on the surface, not a single human being on this earth is immune to doubt, fear, worry, or stress.
I know that not everyone is kind-hearted and well-intended. I know that there are a precious few people that I can whole-heartedly trust. I know that my respect and belief in others is not always justified or reciprocated. Conversely, I know that I haven’t always earned the praise and support that I have received.
As much as I would like to control everything and everyone around me, I know that I cannot and I use that realization to sharpen my focus on what I have absolute control over, me and my own decisions and actions.
I know that I am not right as often as I think I am nor am I wrong as often either.
I am not an ideologue, but I think that when I have a strong vision of what the ideal result would be relative to a decision or a course of action I am considering, I am a lot more likely to obtain that result.
I believe that the closer I live my life on the outside relative to who I am on the inside, the happier and more fulfilled I am. Along those lines, I would rather deal with a snake who knows he is a snake and acts accordingly, then someone who is a snake and pretends to be a saint.
With all of this in mind, when I look back I can clearly see where even the bad times have led to something good, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. When I look forward, I know that almost everything I decide won’t go exactly according to plan.
I incorporate all of my experiences, most of them good and some of them bad, into my commitment to myself to continue to learn and develop and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that whatever I have accomplished through my decision making is due, in large part, to this explanation of my reality.
My optimism forms the basis for what I ultimately believe in and strive for, while my cynicism keeps me on the path of awareness that I need to traverse in order to reach my goals and objectives.
In my mind, I have struck an effective balance between a little bit of cynicism and a lot of optimism. That’s my version of reality. What’s yours?
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.