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Pessimism Never Won Any Battle

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“Pessimism never won any battle”- (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in July 1955-“Pessimism never won any battle, whether it was in peace or whether it was in war.” 

This quote simply means that pessimism or negative thoughts have never bought success to any person in any situation. The objective of this essay is to understand how does pessimism impact individuals and firms and how can it be used to a persons advantage. It talks about pessimism and its consequences. It also includes the balance between optimism and pessimism.

Meaning of pessimism

Pessimism is an entrenched habit of mind that has sweeping and disastrous consequences: depressed mood, resignation, underachievement and even unexpectedly poor physical health.” (Seligman et al.1995)

Pessimism is a mental state of seeing the worst aspect of things and it signifies lack of hope or confidence in the future (The negative effects of pessimism n.d.). These people expect the worst of situations; pessimists relate to the “half-empty glass” rather than “half-full glass,” To use the common expression, the optimist focus attention on the glass half full; i.e. it selects the positive/reinforcing cues from the environment, and tends to filter and ignore information that does not match his brighter outlook. A pessimist does the exact opposite, they are victims are of the negativity bias as they focus attention on the glass half empty; i.e. a pessimist allocates a disproportionately greater attention to the negative cues, while ignoring the positive aspects of a situation. (Hecht 2013, p. 174-175).

Impact on individual

The effects of pessimism are far greater than the development of negative outlook and lack of hope, for it can cause depression. The haunting feeling that things will go wrong or nothing good will ever happen can trigger depressive thoughts, and these can lead to serious problems like chronic pain, anger, insomnia, heart problems, hypertension, obesity, smoking and other mental and emotional problems. (The negative effects of pessimism n.d.). Pessimism may lead to lack of motivation and ambition in an individual’s overall state of mind, which can hinder development and success in all walks of life. Since pessimists are less ambitious they fall victim to the expectancy theory according to which they might feel their efforts are not worth against unattractive rewards, they basically fail to apprehend the relationship between effort, performance and outcomes.

Impact on Firms

Pessimistic employees nurture a consistently negative attitude in the workplace, which may pose a problem. Negative thinking can affect productivity in the workplace, leading to a lack of motivation, bad work ethic, and a distracted and unfocused mind. (Newton n.d.) One employee’s drooping morale can have detrimental impact on his team and the workplace. Moods are contagions. Negative mood creates an environment of less creativity and openness and results in excessive critical thinking. A negative pessimistic attitude can spread around the workplace, resulting in poor communication with co-workers and inducing stress. It can also reduce productivity and cause distractions. (Newton n.d.)

Pessimism’s positive side

Sometimes it seems like eternal optimists win the game, but the prevailing wisdom is missed. Though there are good arguments made for having a positive outlook, But if our natural view of the world isn't all sunshine and roses, that's okay, too."(Pearson 2013)

"There's an awful lot of pressure for people to present themselves as optimistic, and it probably causes more pain than pessimism itself, there can be positive benefits to negative thinking, “said Julie Norem, author of The Positive Power of Negative Thinking.

On the contrary to health hazards of pessimism, researchers believe that pessimists might live longer. Older adults who had lower expectations for their future were more likely to enjoy longer, healthier lives than those with more positive outlooks. (Pearson 2013). Pessimism about the future may encourage people to take health and safety precautions.

Though people are encouraged to think positively in order to succeed at work, defensive pessimists who approach a stressful event by envisioning what could go wrong, actually tend to perform well because of their pessimism. Their natural tendency is to envision, specifically, what the worst-case scenario would entail, they are often motivated to try harder and, therefore, get a lot done. (Pearson 2013).

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