Can a Pessimist be successful?

yin yang, an ancient Chinese symbol representing the balance between positivity and negativity

yin yang, an ancient Chinese symbol representing the balance between positivity and negativity

Swarna Gowtham, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

To put it simply, yes. Success is subjective in nature because there are many pathways and many different routes to success. Success is also in the eye of the beholder, the definition of success is different to each person. To one person, obtaining an MBA and a 401K is a life goal that they consider as reaching success, to another, living on a gondola in Thailand whilst having a successful wicker basket business may be what success looks like. Whether your goals seem traditional or exotic, big or small, simple or complicated, everyone wants their goals to come true. But we usually associate goalkeeping with optimism. Why? Well the proof lies in the past, successes like James Dyson and Steve Jobs have preached optimism as a contributing factor to their success.

But what are the payoffs of pessimism?What are the consequences of optimism? There is a good in being skeptical about something. Researcher’s have called overpowering optimism to be “unrealistic optimism” , the notion that we are less likely to face hardships such as lung cancer, or get a divorce or get fired. The problem with this mindset is that it doesn’t get you prepared for the worst. Some researchers think that people who are depressed are coined to have a sense of “depressive realism”. This however does not mean that a depressive mindset is desirable at all. Infact negative behavior can and should be used positively.

According to hypnotherapist Milton Erickson, a resistance to change and negativity can serve a purpose. The interesting thing about pessimism is when good things happen, you are pleasantly surprised. You are never disappointed with an outcome which in turn, will help motivate you to try new things regardless of the outcome (Psychology Today). Regardless, the takeaway from this is that there should be a balance to positivity and negativity, a ying-yang notion in a sense. Sometimes the trick is to have some positivity with a healthy dose of negativity and a sense of realism. As Forbes Magazine says “ Entrepreneurs will always be those brave enough to risk it. Successful entrepreneurs are those who also know when to quit” (Forbes Magazine).

This in turn, goes against the popular notion that not only overly positive minds can achieve. The truth of the matter is everyone has optimistic and pessimistic thoughts and is never truly just one. So if you believe or have been told that you are a natural born pessimist then theres something definitely to be said about your sense of realism and reactions to outcome.  




Bailey, Sebastian. “Why It Pays To Be A Pessimist.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 June 2016. Web. 14 Sept. 2018.

Barth, Diane. “Be Happy — Just Think Negative Thoughts!!” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2018.