Healthy Pessimism

Pessimism vs. Optimism – Looking at the Whole Picture

by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

The word, pessimism, was always a bad word to me. It was something that I did not want to be associated with. I was raised by parents who had positive attitudes and taught both my brother and me to find the good things, no matter how difficult life might be. When I would be experiencing a big disappointment or hurt, my mother would remind me, Honey, tomorrow, the sun will come out and things will look brighter! And, a good part of the time, she was right. But as I got older, this philosophy became more perplexing for me.

After graduation, my first job was in New York City in the media field. I found myself working with big-city, aggressive contemporaries who seemed to always look at the glass as half-empty. This was uncomfortable for me. Despite their views, I kept my optimistic outlook and sunny disposition, even when it hurt. To them, I was considered a small-town, naïve enigma.

Later, in my 30’s, I ran for political office and had to develop a much tougher skin to survive. Negative vibes were impossible to avoid as a candidate and an elected official, but no matter what threatened me, I still tried to keep an optimistic view, and was recognized with the “Stop and Smell the Roses,” tongue-in-cheek honor upon my retirement.

Let’s face it, for most of my life, I have been called a “Pollyanna,” due to my defiance of negativity. I don’t apologize for that, as it has carried me through some of my best moments and successes. However, when things did not go as well, it was uncomfortable and hurt deeply and I questioned why life took such a turn. It was puzzling for me to understand why looking through the optimistic lens of life did not always turn out as expected or make me feel happy. Why?

In creating my Beyond the Now program, it was my research, along with an article, When Hope Meets Reality, written by Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry, that I had an Aha! moment.

According to Burnison, it is best to have a balanced view of both optimism and pessimism – which he calls, Healthy Pessimism. With a totally optimistic view, too much of a good thing can be too much—even when it’s hope. Pessimism forces us to see reality, which actually may allow us to reframe the picture, to then instill hope that we will make tomorrow better than today. When critical things happen, seeing the reality (pessimism) keeps us grounded, while the hope (optimism) keeps us inspired.

In my case, I may have been aware of the whole picture, but I refused to see anything but the good interpretation (the optimistic view). I needed to take a more realistic look at the big picture with both lenses. I now realize that by filtering out the negativity (the pessimism), I was not eliminating it, but actually stuffing it. This is what caused my discord.

I am thankful that Mom and Dad taught me to see the glass half-filled vs. half-empty, but I am glad to now see the whole glass! Having this healthier balance is important for living and dealing with life, especially in the world we live in. In challenging times ahead, I still may lean toward the more optimistic view, but Healthy Pessimism is what I will strive for!

Holidays Are Veiled By Pandemic, What CAN You Do?

Holidays Are Veiled By Pandemic, What CAN You Do? Part 3

by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

As a senior, my daughter has worried about my safety regarding a visit with the children who have been in school. As a grandmother, I have worried about the safety of my children’s visit due to my every-day whereabouts and choices. The biggest fear for all of us is, will I get my loved ones sick without knowing I might be carrying the virus?

After much discussion, our family has decided to get together at their home and have agreed to follow the “rules” for a safe, smaller gathering.

In my wildest thoughts, I never imagined life as it has been for these past months. But looking beyond all the stresses and challenges of the times, these are the days when we must feel the spirit of gratitude and joy as we celebrate family, friendship, and togetherness. Whatever venue each family chooses, it is important to not lose the focus for that which the holiday truly represents. Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you CAN do. Be creative and make the best of it and, above all, be thankful for each other.

View Part 1 | View Part 2

REGISTER for Beyond The Now, A SPECIAL ONLINE INTRODUCTORY PROGRAM with Margo This December.

What Remains the Same

Holidays Are Veiled By Pandemic, What Remains the Same? Part 2

by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

We, as women, are the big planners. The holidays are a time that we joyously plan ahead with decorating, creating festive menus, arranging travel and visiting accommodations, and shopping, gifting and wrapping. This year, however, we are in limbo and the normal course has been thrown into frenzy, laced with anxiety and unknowns. Our 2020 plans totally hinge on the status of the Covid virus. The big question is: Do we stay home? If the choice is to stay at home, what will the menus in each household be? At the request of my children, (who live 3 hours away), is there a way to make and send my mother’s traditional, Southern, cornbread stuffing? (This has been a staple in our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for over 60 years.)

If the choice is to get together, the strategy encompasses Covid testing (for all attendees), revisiting and possibly revising the small guest list, (who can be trusted to follow the safety rules), masking, social distancing during meal prep and visits, safe-distancing table or outdoor seating arrangements, and safe, protected accommodations. Whew! What traditions will you carry on? What remains the same?

View Part 1

REGISTER for Beyond The Now, A SPECIAL ONLINE INTRODUCTORY PROGRAM with Margo This December.

change

Holidays Are Veiled By Pandemic, What Has Changed? Part 1

by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

I just spent an afternoon on Zoom with some positive-thinking, Baby Boomer women friends of mine, catching up on various topics, laughing, and telling stories. This is what we have learned to do during these unfortunate Covid months of isolation. I have learned to amend my former life of girl-friend lunches, wine get-togethers, and home-visits to occasional on screen social calls… thanks to today’s marvelous technology of Zoom and FaceTime. We seem to be managing it fairly well during this ill-fated period.

Of these friends, some are widowed, some are divorced and a few are with spouses or partners. We all have in common our children and grand children, whom we have seen very little of – if any – over these past eight months of the Pandemic. And when the question surfaced at the end of our chat this week, what is each of you doing for the holidays? the vein got more serious. During a time of year when planning ahead is full of anticipation and fun, most of us were unsure of what to propose or expect going forward with Holiday Season 2020. Is there more? How do I move forward?

REGISTER for Beyond The Now, A SPECIAL ONLINE INTRODUCTORY PROGRAM with Margo This December.