The Optimist vs. The Realist

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Hi. My name is Wendy, and I’m an optimist. There. I confessed. On the whole, I think that’s a good thing for an agent, especially since I happen to be a good sales person, and my optimism is often communicated to those I’m pitching. That–combined with a “good eye” so that when I do optimistically pitch a project, more often than not, my optimistic prognostications bear out–makes for a successful career agent. But there are downsides to being a cockeyed optimist. Sometimes the optimist tends to take on far more than is realistic. Here’s some of the wrong thinking I’ve decided to challenge for 2013:

  1. Always believing I can do far more than is humanly possible.
  2. Thinking that if I work hard enough, anything is possible.
  3. Believing it all rests with me.
  4. Seeing unlimited possibilities.

I aim to pump up my realistic side. Here are a few of my resolutions that correspond to the magical thinking above:

  1. I need to be realistic about the amount of work I can do. Working 12-hour weekdays and weekends does nothing to improve the quality of my work. Realistically, by working intensely with a well-rested mind in set blocks of time I should be able to be even more productive. Right?
  2. There’s truth to this “anything is possible” thinking. I’ve seen it work but only when God is in it. If I leave that part of the equation out, I can plan on failure. (I can do all things through him. . . Philippians 4:13)
  3. Here’s the key—I can only do my very best. The outcome is up to God. When I start thinking it is all on my shoulders, it’s nothing but pride rearing its ugly head.
  4. As an agent, I need to acknowledge limited possibilities. There are only so many slots for new authors in traditional publishing, for instance. But having said that, I need to fight tooth & nail for those slots for the talent I represent. I’ve proven I have the eye, so I need to believe my clients’ projects are the best and then continue to work like crazy in a competitive field to place my projects into those slots.

How about you? Are you challenging any faulty thinking this year? Are you a pessimist? How do you challenge that kind of thinking?

84 Responses

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  1. My inner pendulum swings between optimist and pessimist on a daily basis. However, after a particularly challenging 2012, I’ve vowed to make 2013 the Year of Yes (corny, right?), the first step, thinning a few negative minded thinkers from my circle. Nothing weighs down a positive outlook more than an albatross of Debbie Downers telling you your goal is unattainable – time to heave hoe the dream killers.

    Happy New Year, Wendy!

    • Jill Kemerer says:

      It’s not corny! I love that phrase–year of yes!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      What great advice, Kathryn! I need to follow suite and thin out those negative voices.

      So many bloggers these days are trying to build followers by being “controversial” and it means that many of these posts are weighted toward doomsday attitudes. Debbie and Dudley Downers filling our minds with the negative. I’m over it.

    • jacqueline fairchild gillam says:

      Dear Wendy:
      I love to follow your comments because you are an enthusiastic person. You do tackle life with gusto and this is something I identify with and everyone finds contagious. (Ok most everyone…)

      But when I read your article title Optimist vs. Realist I immediately thought, shouldn’t it be Optimist vs. Pessimist? Somehow I think you already are a realist. And maybe you just needed to stand back and re-look.

      1. Always believing you can do more than is humanly possible…

      Well, there are humans and there are humans. And then there is quality. Sometimes quality and inspiration come after a rest. Or a change of venue. That could be eating a Mickey bar in front of Cinderella’s castle or a girl’s afternoon at a tea room. Your sub conscious already has its challenge and sometimes you need to just let all of it marinate in your mind while you literally do something else.

      God will nudge it in the right direction. Taking a breather does not mean you will ever fall into that category of non-worker. I somehow doubt anyone would ever associate you with someone who casually saunters through their days. You are right in saying you should be more productive. You will be. Schedule in some fun. Set a bed time and then take a book or puppy or snack to bed and let the evening have an ending. And see how you wake up.

      I think you love to work. It is just that simple. You sound happiest working. You work for fun and work for work. You probably dream about work. Work makes you happy. Your interests are probably few and deep and of course include your work. That is the mind set for truly successful people. That is why you succeed. But you can work better and refreshed with a little variety thrown in. Maybe a new restaurant for lunch (if you take lunch away from your desk), or a weekend escape. It is amazing how many fascinating places you can go in a 3-5 hour drive. New towns, new shoppes, new faces. A new ice cream stand with new flavors. New shoes.

      Visiting a new town and finding their church. The drive could be relaxing. The church could be softening. And the drive time could be quietly productive. And at the end of the day, turn around and drive home.

      Waiting for a ‘vacation’ once a year often isn’t enough to rejuvenate your perspective. The miniscule side trips, detours, day outings sometimes are more relaxing without the pressure of a serious trip. Over nights can feel like a week away for a busy person. And sometimes that is all you need.

      You don’t want lower standards; you want to just make your standards work for you. There is no such thing as wasting time to a truly productive person. Their subconscious does not know you are having a cup of hot chocolate at a tiny Patisserie—it is still working, just with a little added relaxation from you. And sometimes that is when it works best.

      2. Thinking if I work hard enough anything is possible.

      Anything is possible. And I believe God hears all of our thoughts and has a plan. But our goals are not shopping lists for God. There is a plan that sometimes we don’t understand or see. It could be ‘not now’, or ‘something better is in the works’. But our faith tells us that God is there looking after us.

      Anything is possible within a certain frame work. I suspect it is not possible for you to climb Mt. Everest (unless of course you are a mountain climber) but in your field, you know that you can see possibilities possibly where others cannot. That is probably why your clients love you.

      Remind your subconscious that you are going to try and redefine the phrase hard work to smart work. And see the list above. After all we know we cannot drive our cars if we do not fill the tank. Your mental and physical tank need to be on the list too. They are part of smart work.

      I believe you can have anything you want, just not everything.

      3. Believing it all rests with me.

      Well, you know, it does rest with you and God. You are a make it happen person and you have chosen a path that lets you express that. This is your essence. This is how you approach life. Not everyone can do this. That is why clients sign up with you and why you work for them. Now an under achiever probably says they do their best all the time. And probably never live up to their potential. But you need to quietly look in the mirror and say you are doing your best. God can help you improve, since we can all improve, but right now, as things are, you are putting together the best you have. And then take a breath and rather than struggle, find satisfaction with that. And learn to believe it.

      You can build on your successes and strengths. You need to identify them as such and if you have a hard time thinking you have done enough at any given time, take a success of yours and look at the elements that made it that way. The relationship you slowly built. The years of training and hard work that made you able to find the area to pursue. This is something you can contemplate while on a quiet drive. And when you look at the whole picture you may shock yourself. And your faith will remind you that it was all done with a bigger hand guiding you along.

      It is not the quantity of your successes that is important. And it is not the end products either. It is the quality and the process. And some recipes stay in the oven longer than others. And some have more complicated ingredients. If it was just one base formula repeated over and over something tells me you would be bored. It is the challenges that frustrate you, invigorate you, exhaust you and make you smile. Is this really a path you chose or one that God chose for you? Because you are made for it.

      4. Seeing unlimited possibilities…

      Yes, of course you are right in everything you have said. But are their slots for some of your clients that are not the traditional ones? The expected ones? Do you have a writer of children’s books that would be ideal writing an article for Highlights? Do you have a romance writer that could give advice in a syndicated column? Or a local column?

      And remember when you hear the word no it really means ‘not right now’. Revisiting a publisher or venue over a period of time often works. The ‘buyer’ may be in a better or different mood. They may be ready for a fresh thought or what you are promoting might now be popular enough that they see it.

      I suspect your clients want instant. We are an instant society. But you are not offering to just get something printed for them. You are launching their writing career. And this comes as it comes, with nurturing, with the right timing, with God aiming you to the right person. With readers ready for what they have to offer.

      And sometimes a break for you will make you think of a place, a movie producer, the Lifetime channel or something that you hadn’t traditionally tapped.

      Be kinder to yourself in the new year. There is only one of you; you have made a huge difference in so many lives. Now this year, you are at the top of the list. Things you associated with goofing off are actually dear fun things that you not only deserve on a regular basis but need. One warm scone will not change your weight. One weekend away will not destroy your business. Some of life’s small joys will actually enhance it.

      Your notes are my tiny escape.

      Warm regards
      Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild
      [email protected]

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        Great insight Jacqueline. And wonderful suggestions!

        Have you noticed that the comments here on the blog add far more than the original post? That’s why I love our community– the collective brain.

  2. Sarah Thomas says:

    Oh. Magical thinking. Guilty. If only I can come up with the right formula to unlock the door to everything working out the way I just know it’s meant to!

    Because (#3) it does all rest on me. Doesn’t it? Oh, right. Pride. That’s the primary faulty thinking I struggle with every day, not just in 2013. Oh, I know it’s God doing the work, but he picked ME to do it through. How awesome is that?

    I love this post, Wendy. Optimism is my blessing and my curse! The treatment? Having realistic friends who aren’t overly impressed with me ; )

    • “Having realistic friends who aren’t overly impressed with me” Sure they are, they just know you and want the best for you. Who squealed with you when you had that Agent Call???
      Uh huh.
      And who doesn’t try to think up that magical formula??

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      How right. It’s a blessing and a curse. (But it is a fun way to see the world.)

  3. Good morning Wendy, and Happy New Year!
    I’m neither an optimist, nor am I a pessimist. I guess one could say I’m a realist. But it took me eons to realize and accept that being a realist (yes, I know there are two similar sounding words in that sentence, but let’s not obsess on that, shall we…I?)is a fine balance between two poles.
    I’ll answer your first 4 points…first. (See, I did it AGAIN! I blame post-traumatic Facebook virus hacking)
    1)No, have you seen my spine x-rays? Bahaha! Somedays, I can’t even tie my shoes.

    2)Again, nope. Because we also have the nerve damage in the feet. And the ability to read a really good book in a day. Who wants to kill themselves mopping the floor when Mistah Dahcy is just about to save Lizzie???

    3)Around here, it’s a team effort. Unless thee is a snowstorm, then we have teen age boys. 🙂 I heart teen age boy laboUr.

    4)I’ve been around long enough (AGH!Did I JUST say that???) to know that there ain’t no way this is true.

    Seriously though, I have looked back at the last 3 years and am PROFOUNDLY thankful that I have Jesus. From the underbelly of the dark pit of depression and having our daughter stray so far away we didn’t recognize her, to sitting in a church basement with elderly Navajo ladies who are stunned and pleased that I want to tell their history, I’m eternally thankful that God controls the roller coaster.
    The first of four points simply have no legs within the realm of Biblical thought. It is a lack of faith that takes man to the point that he thinks he is superbly gifted and divinely unaccountable. That is when the enemy creeps in and feeds the polite rebellion.

    Your second set of points is much more in line with how many people view their outlook, and far more grounded in what is rational and probable in terms of positive outcomes.

    1) When we work that hard, with those kinds of hours, we should be called “Doctor”. Or “Your Royal Highness.” And,umm, even Jesus took off to clear His head.

    2)True. Anything IS possible for God, the rest of us just wait in the wings unless He cues us.

    3)Our best is not someone else’s best. Comparison should be declared one of the most deadly sins. Comparison feeds pride and pride kills even the most beautiful of gifts.

    4)Ahhh, “the eye”. I can actually relate to you on this one. I can look at a broken down, moisture whitened, blackened from mildew, smelly, ugly antique and KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can bring it back to its glory. I did that a year ago when I bought 2 dressers for 65$, and sold them for 950$. I heard a crowd of 2000 people gasp when the dressers were rolled out for auction, they were that beautiful. It was incredibly hard and took about 150 hours of painstaking, precise and very patient work. But I view my restoration projects as spiritual journeys. If I can do something with a pile of wood, then God can do just about anything He wants with me.
    As hard as I press down on my sander, and chisel and plane away the rough spots, I know He has to do the same to me. Yes, it hurts, and it hurts ALOT.
    But when I stand back and let the world see what He can do, all the grumbling and pain is worth seeing that His possibilities are endless.

  4. Jill Kemerer says:

    Wendy, I moved to a block schedule this fall, and I can’t believe how much more productive I was in fewer hours of the day. I wasted less time, got more done, and had more fun–guilt free. Win-win!

    I’m reading Joyce Meyer’s CHANGE YOUR WORDS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE right now, and it is driving home to me how pessimistic I was last year. Ultimately, when I’m pessimistic it’s a sign of weak faith on my part. I’m taking notes on Joyce’s book–I feel better already!

    Blessings to you as you adjust yourself this year!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Hmm. I think I’ll put that book on my stack. Don’t we always need someone to give us a good, “snap out of it.”

    • Judy Gann says:

      Jill, one of my goals this year is trying block scheduling so I can (ahem, Wendy) finish my novel. I’ve just started, but already been more productive.

      I tend to be a pessimist too. Thanks for recommending Joyce’s book. I’ll have to look for it.

      Next Monday evening our church’s women’s Bible Study is starting Tammi Head’s “Duty or Delight?” It’s about taking your relationship with God from a duty to a delight. Love how when the Lord speaks to you about something you start “hearing” about it from all directions.

      Wendy, thank you for a post that certainly speaks to me.

    • Joyce always has a way of making me feel better. I have to start my day with her, if not, something feels off.

  5. I am dealing with some new thinking this year, but it’s a bit personal so I’m going to keep it to myself.

    But your #3, Wendy, realizing that the outcome is up to God, was so freeing. I need to do my best, but at that point I can set it aside and know that it’s up to God to do the rest, whatever that may be. I don’t know how people write without that jewel in their minds. Talk about stress!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      And Sally, I believe that with all my heart. We just do the work–in faith– and leave it there. That’s why I roll my eyes at those who tell us it’s impossible or the odds are against us. They forget the “magic” ingredient.

      It reminds me of what Thoreau said in Walden, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . .”

      When we advance confidently and leave the outcome to God, we’re so very often gobsmacked at what He does.

  6. Jeanne T says:

    Wendy, a beautiful post. Depending on the situation, I can be an optimist or a pessimist. When it’s someone else who’s trying to figure things out, I can be her biggest cheer leader. When I’m faced with unexpected circumstances, I tend to go through a negative patch before I meander over to a more optimistic mindset.

    That said, my one word for 2013 is PERSPECTIVE. This will be a multi-faceted learning year for me, but part of it will be learning to flex with unexpected events. I’m definitely going to be working on faulty thinking this year.

    I loved your third point. You’re so right. I can do my best, but it’s up to God to bring about HIS desired results. Pride has definitely tripped me up in this regard, but I’m learning. 🙂 Thanks for your words today.

  7. I’m definitely an optimist in the way you describe, Wendy…in thinking I can do more than I actually can. I so often forget to lean on Jesus, which as you pointed out, is a BIG MISTAKE. The reason, though, is because I’m not spending enough time with Him…you know, because I’m so busy. Isn’t it interesting that when we give Him time, He seems to multiply the rest?

    • Amen, and convicting!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Hear, hear, Lindsay! Isn’t that true. I take my “quiet time” early in the morning. I often sit down with tasks and worries swirling, feeling that pull toward my desk to get in and just tackle the problems.

      On the days I give in and do a cursory prayer and reading time and get to my desk early to begin to solve problems, the day gets heavier and heavier. When I take the time to lay each problem and each client on the table before him my whole day is refocused. I couldn’t do the job I do without that first meeting of the morning.

  8. Joanne Sher says:

    I am most DEFINITELY an optimist. I need to remember, just like you, that I CAN’T do it all, that it does NOT all depend on me, and that I need FOCUS.

    Thanks, Wendy!

  9. As 2012 came to a close I challenged faulty thinking by extending forgiveness to a close family member. I admit that even a few days into the new year I’ve thought of taking it back. Only by the grace of God can I keep from lapsing into my old thought patterns. As Sally mentioned above, the Lord gave me the strength to be obedient, and now the rest is up to Him.

    Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. -Proverbs 16:1

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Ooo, Jenni, that is the hardest thing. And you will want to take it back over and over as you remember why you had every right to hold a grudge. But letting go of that “right” is a beautiful, costly sacrifice. I can’t imagine a better gift to lay at the altar.

      Hopefully, as you share this, others will have the courage to let go of their carefully tended affronts. Science has proven that holding on to grudges does terrible damage to our health so you’ve taken a major health step as well.

      • The Lord is obviously trying to get my attention when it comes to “rights”. My MC in my WIP learns the hard way that letting go of her rights is exactly what you said-a beautiful, costly sacrifice.

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        Isn’t it funny, Jenni, how our fiction characters often struggle with our very issues. 🙂

  10. Wendy – lovely post. I think you’ve pegged so many of us with your words. It’s why we relate to you – because you relate to us!

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Happy New Year.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Thanks, Becky. Kindred spirits, right?

    • Becky, you hit on a word that has been humming around my head all afternoon. “Relate”, it’s what we readers/writers/commenters and the Books and Such ladies do so well, isn’t it?
      We relate do so in SUCH a warm and inviting atmosphere.

      Here’s out Latin Lesson for the Day: “relate”, from the Latin ‘relatus’. Suppletive past participle of ‘referre’ to carry back.

      I like that, “to carry back”. We carry back to each other what we have learned and share it around our table.

      Blessings, Becky.

  11. I’m an optimistic and I do tend to take on more than is realistic. My husband is a realist and I appreciate his gentle reminders that I’m human and while God can do all things through me, He doesn’t always do ALL those things at the same time! LOL

  12. I’m a crazy optimist, and what’s worse, I’m a romantic optimist, which means I bite off way more than I can chew and I’m often disappointed when life turns out to be less lovely than it should be. I’ve never really correlated my optimism with biting off more than I can chew, but it’s starting to make sense! I always wondered why I said yes too often and then found myself stressed out and scrambling at the last minute. I’ll need to ponder this more. It does help me to think about my goals for 2013 a little differently. As far as being a romantic optimist, it definitely has its perks – I’m generally happy and I think the best of people and circumstances – and I always have hope. It’s just a matter of balance.

  13. This is a lovely post, Wendy. I tend to think I am Wonder Woman, too. Last year was a total blur for me, and in 2013 my goal is to step back, pray more, and be a realistic optimist, because I don’t want to be in the same position this year.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Me, too, Cheryl. My word for 2013 is “savor.” I tend to rush through life at such a hectic pace I’m not savoring it– reflecting and enjoying.

  14. Micky Wolf says:

    Great post to begin the New Year! And a big amen to the importance of understanding the parts that belong to God–and those which are our responsibility. Self-doubt tends to get to me once in awhile, at which point I have learned to gently remind myself God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. Embracing His grace while persevering and staying the course are most helpful as well. Sooo…anyone for being an optimistic realist? 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Love that Micky! And isn’t that the truth, God equips us for all that he has called us do. (And when we find ourselves ill-equipped I’m guessing it might be because we said yes to something for which we were never called.)

  15. I am an optimist! It is my strength and my weakness depending on if I am relying on God or I get out there and dig in all by my little Kathy self..

    My challenges resemble yours, Wendy, but on the client end of things. Surrender comes first, productivity follows and flows according to God’s will and my obedience.

    2013 Commitments:

    1) Managing my time to polish my work.
    2) Understand my limits and listen to my body.
    3) Educate myself and update on new developments in the industry and refine my skills, even if it means asking for help. (swallow my pride and accept the gift of humility)
    4)Rejoice, refresh, rewrite!

  16. My dog has challenged me to:
    1. walk her more
    2. hug her more
    3. feed her less. (She’s getting a little pudgy around the middle)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      If I listen to Betsy and Gunther– my golden and our son’s pit bull terrier– I’d spend my life at the treat jar and running after birds and rabbits on the trail with them.

      I’m afraid my work would languish. (Don’t listen to the dog– she has her own agenda and feed less would probably not be on it.) 🙂

      • You have a golden, Wendy? I have two golden pups–one is 5 mos. and one is 18 mos., but as you know, they are puppies till they’re 3. Maybe longer. 😉 They’re crazy, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

  17. Beth K. Vogt says:

    This is a powerful post, Wendy, and it ties into my word for 2013, which is “Confidence.”
    I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of gal — and nothing drains the hope from the glass quicker than comparing myself to other writers. I look at what other writers are accomplishing — and toss my confidence in a ditch along the writing road. There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about not throwing away your confidence — and that’s the foundation of my word for the year. I am lasering my vision on the road ahead of me — not on someone else’s journey.
    In that way, I hope to walk 2013 with a healthy balance of realistic optimism.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Then that quote up above from Thoreau is just for you: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . .

  18. Wendy, I love when you said, ‘I can only do my very best. The outcome is up to God.’ I need to print that out and stick it onto my computer, my steering wheel, and my refrigerator! Thanks for a great post.

  19. Amanda Dykes says:

    I love how specific your action steps are, and oh, do they ever speak to me! Particularly #1– a well-rested mind and concentrated blocks of working time… that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m going to go modify one of my 2013 goals to be more specific and reflect this. Thanks, Wendy!

  20. Lori says:

    I tend to be a realist however, I also tend to be my own worst critic. I’ve gotten better. I don’t beat myself up as much now. I had to learn to see the glass as half full instead of half empty.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Keep working on this because as a writer you need to learn to tuck that critic away during your creative times.

      It works great to have a few good friends hold you accountable. If they hear you criticizing yourself they can refute the lies. Those lies only come from one place, y’know.

  21. Jenny says:

    I’m an optimist who has found realism. I am learning to take my optimism away from what I can do and place it on what god wants to do with my writing and my life. Taming my workaholism is made easier by thinking about the realism in that all of my own plans are in vain and I’m just a hamster on a treadmill. My verse from god for years was “Be still.” I hated it, but I’m am a different person now through it. My verse now is trust. My new year goals are about “being” instead of “doing.”

  22. Navdeep Kaur says:

    I am an optimist. That’s why I go around my house jumping, waving rejection letters happily in family members’ faces; I see each one as a step closer to my ultimate goal. Because I am an optimist for the most part, I am constantly energized to keep churning out work and taking the risk of sending it to literary magazines and journals.

    I have really big dreams. I mean dreams as big as the golden gate bridge in contrast to an ant–I’m the ant.

    Wendy, you’re so lucky to have realized that there is a humanly possible limit. My brain refuses to recognize that there is a limit and is constantly screaming from stress and work overload as a result. The one thing I have conceded to is the power of the Divine.

    My mom used to cook my ears by saying this every day, but it’s true. “God helps those who help themselves.” and “Do good deeds without expecting fruit; the fruit will come at the right time.” I don’t think I can pull my brain out of overdrive even though I get migraine headaches daily now, but it’s so much easier to finish something knowing that it will blossom when its time comes.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I love your positive attitude about rejections, Navdeep. When I was building my writing career eons ago, I had a binder with sections labeled form rejections, rejections with info, personal rejections, encouraging rejections, almost acceptances, and acceptances. As the back half of the binder grew thicker I knew I was making progress.

      I often told myself I had to amass a set number of rejections before I would sell. It’s just that I didn’t exactly know what the number was, so I never wanted to stop in case that was the very last rejection I ever had to collect. Can you imagine stopping just short of the big sale?

      But it sounds like you need to cut yourself some slack. Migraine headaches! You may not be like this but I used to have trouble with “control issues” that caused physical symptoms. The hardest thing I ever had to do was learn to pry my fingers off my life (and everyone else’s).

      One of my clients, Gari Meacham, wrote in her amazing book, Spirit Hunger, that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s control. I can’t stop thinking about that. Convicted me!

      • Navdeep Kaur says:

        I also work towards an invisible number…I may not know what the number is, but there is a magic number. I’m trying to use excel spreadsheets to see if I can find out what my number is.

        As you can see, I have a “control issue” as well. The good news is that it’s moved out of my life and other real people’s lives into my writing. Hence the headaches.

        I’m going to enlarge this: “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s control” and put in my room. I will also pass on a copy to the people who like to “control” me. 🙂

        Thank you, Wendy!

      • Navdeep Kaur says:

        *Correction: put it up in my room.*

  23. I once saw a poster with Murphy’s Law printed on it. The poster went on to say Murphy was an optimist. Most people don’t get that when they hear, “If something CAN go wrong, it WILL.” But they don’t understand that it is a measure of optimistic endurance. Since things go wrong all the time, and yet we survive and succeed, then we can overcome the next thing that does, seeing success at the end of every road. This is my take on life. Not sure if others would call me optimistic from this point of view, but it’s what keeps me going in tough times.

  24. Thank you for this reflection, Wendy. Generally, I consider myself a realist but, as a recovering perfectionist, I definitely resonate with #1 and #3 on your list of wrong thinking. Over the years, friends have told me some things that have helped. A friend once told me that I should frequently meditate on this: God giving me a gentle reproof, “You’re trying to do My job again.” Another friend told me, “Christine, you’re the little sparrow who wants to take care of God.” So humility, humility, humility and accepting my limitations. I’ve gotten better, but I’m still working on learning these lessons. You hit it with your resolution #2: to do your best. And I have to remind myself that there are days when my best isn’t too wonderful. So that’s the way it is that day. Accept it and move on.

    “Anything is possible, if I just work hard enough.” I completely agree that all things are possible with God. However, I’m reminded of something another friend said. She was an English teacher and she said it to her class, not specifically me. I was glad, though, that I was present to hear it. A definite realist, she told her class that this idea that “you can do anything you put your mind to,” was misleading and often misused. She felt that that thinking set people up for failure. She emphasized that we need to look at the gifts God has given us. They are what we have been given to share and we need to focus on developing and sharing them rather than wasting time and energy trying to be something we are not. She gave this example, “No matter how hard I try, I am NEVER going to be a world class opera singer.” She was right; she didn’t have the voice for it. I try to remember that when I find myself focusing on my deficiencies (I will never be an Albert Einstein when it comes to math no matter how matter how hard I try). My focus needs to be on the gifts God has given me and on how to use them to His glory and for the good of others.

    Happy New Year, Wendy and to everyone who is part of this community!

    • That ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’ sets SO MANY up for failure!!
      I will never figure skate. Or flamenco, or as much as I’d love to, Irish dance. But I can enjoy the skills of those who do.
      I must brag a bit, I probably could get through Nessun Dorma or Suo Gan, once.

      Actually, I have, in my van. The applause was insane!!

      A gift is not something I was born with, but something I received through the benevolence of another. So I treasure my gifts and enjoy sharing them.

      • “The applause was insane”–thank you for the laugh, Jennifer! I needed it today. 🙂

        I will not do the flamenco or Irish dance or do any of the others either. But it’s fine. I have good friends, a family that puts up with me and God loves me and takes care of me. All is well.

  25. Jan Thompson says:

    As a writer, I’m both, weather permitting…

    When I write my historicals, I’m an optimist, always looking for the Happily Ever After and After and Then Some, but when I write my suspense novels, I’m very pessimistic that my characters will survive anything at all.

    However, I look at 2013 with optimism shaded by pessimism — hey, I’m being realistic! — because this year, I’ll be nervously looking for a Matching Agent, and I’m somewhat pessimistic about finding a perfect match. But the optimist in me knows I have to trust God and God alone to provide. He has brought me safely this far, and He will lead me home.

    Great topic! Much food for thought!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      And yet, if it’s time, and the book is ready, all you need to do is do the work to get it out there. You don’t have control over the outcome.

      And the nice thing is, it’s never once for all. If this round is a “no thanks,” you just keep doing the work and get the next one out there.

      True story: I couldn’t sell my first book for anything. (Middle grade, set in restoration England.) When I sold Book #2 (America, Harriet Tubman) the editor came back to me and said, “We’ve decided it’s best to introduce a new author with two books. Got anything else?” I just happened to have something in the drawer. 🙂

  26. Peter DeHaan says:

    The optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist claims it’s half empty, but the engineer notes it’s fifty percent bigger than needed.