“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward
How do you usually react to new situations? Do you tend to resist, ignore, or adjust to an event or condition you don’t like? What works best for you?
I often think of myself as an optimist. Years ago, I was very involved with the “think positive” movement, primarily because life was difficult and the many changes in my life often wore me down. I also learned that much of the negative thinking I did could be released when I learned to release my fears because those fears created the negative thoughts.
All these experiences helped me to get my negative thinking under control, and by seeing life from a more positive perspective, I was a happier person. But choosing to be an optimist about everything is not always the best choice.
Being A Realist Is Wise
The wisest approach to life is to be a realist and develop the ability to adjust to what is actually occurring because ignoring reality can be harmful. I once had a friend who was very creative and with whom I did presentations that combined my poetry and her photography. This was a very powerful creative connection I had not experienced since my earlier years in modern dance and theater and I deeply valued it.
When she became ill, she refused to see a doctor, insisting she would be fine. After many months, her daughter convinced her to face the source of her pain. When she finally visited the doctor, she discovered she had very advanced cancer that could not be treated. She died four months later.
I was stunned, heart-broken, and angry. Having dealt with many illnesses over the years, I had always seen a doctor, even if I dreaded what I thought the answer would be. I knew that whatever the sickness was, I needed to face it and treat it. But my friend was not a realist.
Adjusting the Sails of Your Life
Life is not the perfect drama we would like it to be. There are ups and downs and surprises, but what creates a good life for us is how we deal with the winds that blow through our lives. None of us would choose to be experiencing a pandemic, especially one that is clearly not going away soon, but it is here, regardless of what we want.
So how can we be realistic and live well during this time? I strongly suggest listening to the medical experts about wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting tested instead of to a president and his followers who deny these needs exist. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
Be a realist and “adjust the sails of your life.” My husband and I love to go to the movies. Now we have discovered the PBS series “Poldark” and often watch it when we’re in the “movie” mood. What is nice about this is that we don’t have to get dressed and spend money. We can even watch it in our pajamas.
While it would be nice to eat in a restaurant, we can get a pick-up dinner and eat on our deck with a lovely view of the trees and the continual bird song. For more outdoor pleasures we walk in the neighborhood and around a nearby lake. We can visit and see friends faces on Zoom. These choices are not what we prefer, but they are the wise, realistic ones.
Being Realistic May Include Some Optimism
While being a realist makes sense and can safe-guard us during these particularly challenging days, being optimistic at times may also be helpful. It’s better to hope than to become depressed about the worst. It is worthwhile to consider what is needed for us to accomplish the goals we hope to pursue when restrictions ease.
What research might we undertake about the degree we want to get, the trip we desire to take, the job we hope to receive or the skills we wish to develop? Even if we can’t pursue such things right now, we will learn what preparation we need and if we can begin any of that work now. We also may discover that there are other choices we overlooked which are more appealing.
With a willingness to adjust our sails, we may find the path we truly need to take to a destination where the sailing is smoother.
© 2020 Georganne Spruce