For as long as I can remember – I have been called an optimist. This is a term that I embrace and love. When somebody calls me an optimist, I feel truly seen and understood. I feel like my habitual way of showing up in the world is spot-on with how I wish to be experienced – I feel like I’m making choices that represent what I really want for myself – yay me!

And then, a few years back, I started to notice a different quality and tone being used when people called me an optimist. All of a sudden there was a sneering, a teasing, a mocking of sorts. “You’re such an optimist” was phrase uttered with a sense of exasperation and frustration; it was as though optimism had become a negative quality. What the heck is that about?

This sudden “turn of favour” as I call it, is something that needs to be addressed. I think there’s a way in which optimism as a quality and a human trait has become misunderstood. It’s been glorified, to some degree, and as a result many people seem to view optimists as out of touch with reality. So let’s set the record straight.

Optimists are generally positive people; I think most would agree with that. An optimist’s focus is less on what isn’t working, and more on how to make it work. For an optimist, difficulties are very real and at the same time, an optimist strives to find a way to deal with the difficulty so that it either disappears, works to one’s advantage, or reveals itself as less of a difficulty and more of an opportunity. Optimists, for the most part, are possibility-thinkers.

That being said, there are numerous myths that surround optimists. Many think that optimists can’t see problems. Wrong. Optimists can absolutely see when things are problematic; they just endeavour to find a way to circumvent the problem. Optimists are often perceived as never being able to see the “bad side” of things. Wrong again. An optimist can absolutely see the “bad side” – whether of a scenario, or a personality, or something else – however, for an optimist, there’s also the realization that there are other sides too. In other words, an optimist has the capacity to see other points of view. Sometimes, an optimistic viewpoint is painted as being out of touch with reality. Again, this is false. For an optimist, there is a recognition that while he or she could stand in a reality that’s problem-based, there’s far more to be gained when a different, more upbeat, possibility-filled perspective is taken. It’s still reality; just a more palatable one and, perhaps more importantly, one that is more conducive to productive, forward movement than a problem-based one.

With all of this being said, the biggest thing to know about an optimist is this: an optimist is someone who consciously, deliberately, looks at the options and varying perspectives, and then gravitates toward the one that raises the possibilities and energy, more often than not. This last piece — “more often than not” — is really important to note, because optimists are as human as anybody else. While their habitual way of being is to see the bright side, so to speak, this does not mean that they can’t get mired down in the mud from time to time. Being an optimist doesn’t preclude someone from having a bad day. Instead, being an optimist means that the bad days can – and will – be turned around at some point, usually by a process of conscious choice.

Bottom-line: optimists are people too. They are subject to the ups and downs of life, the challenges of the human condition, and the angst and frustration that anyone might encounter. An optimist’s power and strength lies in her ability – and her habit – of simultaneously recognizing challenges, naming them, and then choosing the most empowering stand from which to approach them. The Optimist’s Creed, quoted above, gives a sense of the paradigm from which optimist’s operate. Stay tuned next week, as we begin the exploration of each line of the creed.

Author's Bio: 

Gail Barker is a Certified Professional Life Coach and Co-Author of The Control Freak's Guide to Living Lightly. Since 2002, Gail has supported hundreds of professional women, through coaching, workshops, and her monthly ezine, in shifting their lives from chaos to calm; her coaching practice revolves around the concept of ease. For Gail, life is all about having every person experience success on their terms. To this end, she invites you to ask yourself, "whose life are you living?", and if your answer is anything other than "my own", visit Stellar Coaching and Consulting at to get on your own path to success.