Reality vs Optimism. What’s the Difference?

Optimism is hoping and reality is controlling. You can control your reality. Control is real movement, choices and action. Hoping for the optimum requires nothing but candy cane and lollipop dreams. See, I’ve been the butt of the reality joke too many times in life to not lean into that party line. I’m not saying I’m a pessimist or a negative person, I’ve just seen how many situations play out. The whole “Hope for the best but plan for the worst” thing.

In 1996 I was in Kuwait on a 2 month deployment. We were supposed to be there from April to June. No big deal. I knew my sister’s wedding was planned for August 10th so I had plenty time to go on my deployment, redeploy and make it to her wedding. The beginning of June had rolled around and we had already began to prep for redeployment; cleaning gear, vehicles, etc. I don’t remember the date but one morning we had our normal formation except this time the Commander spoke. He informed us that the guy north of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein, was getting ornery and they needed us to stay for a “Presence Mission” for 60 days. WHAT!!!! I can’t! I have my sister’s wedding to attend. Guess what? I didn’t get home til August 14 and missed the wedding. This was the first big kick in the nuts. I’ve had many more since then and even some before then but this one, this one was a game changer for me. This is when you can say “I woke up” just like Anthony De Mello talks about in his book “Awareness”. From then on I became a disciple of reality.

My wife gets twisted a bit because of the way I am. I’m a bit of a buzzkill. She gets all excited about an upcoming event or vacation and I’m all like “Meh, we’ll see”. For example, we’re leaving for a trip soon. A trip we’ve been really looking forward to. She asked me the other night, “Aren’t you excited”! I told her I’d get excited when we’re wheels up on the plane. I kind of deflated her joy balloon. But, she knows how I am. The more I read this book the more I realize I’ve “woken up”. It is a liberating feeling. I pray for things and hope that God will do his good works and bless my prayers but having woken up has also helped me to realize that His plan is better than mine and not to get my little feelings hurt when something I pray for doesn’t come to fruition.

It’s hard to tell people to be more realistic. Unfortunately, it takes some set of events to happen to make them become that way. It goes back to the learning from experience thing. I rarely get my feelings hurt when something happens because not much surprises me anymore. Especially the human capacity to do or not do things. It really has helped me to control my stress and anger as well. It has helped me to be more patient when waiting on hold or waiting in a line. Things don’t and won’t always go as planned. KNOW THAT!! So just chill and let things work themselves out. In due time things will come around but you also have to take action. This all goes back to the first couple of sentences. You can control your reality. You control it by choosing your attitude and how you respond to a given situation. You rejoice when things go your way but on the flip side if they don’t, the letdown is not so hard. Hoping really does nothing but set you up to get your feelings hurt.

Bottom line is this, whatever hand you’re dealt is your reality. What you make of it is your decision. Your choice. You can stand in awe, complain, argue and bring others down with you OR you can make the decision to thrive and be the best you can in any situation. Combat vets are pretty good at this stuff. We can sleep on the desert or jungle floor, eat nasty food, sweat, bleed and deal with bugs. We don’t like it but it’s the reality of the situation. Change your focus from the negative and “Be all you can be”. Be better than that. Be that light for the weak minded and lost.

Excerpt from Anthony De Mello’s book, “Awareness”.

“You want freedom? Here it is: Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.”


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