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The Optimism Paradox

*Please note, the person writing this, is a natural born optimist and has nothing against pessimists, optimists, realists, or any other type of -ist*

It has been a while since I have posted an article so I felt that I should share some of my thoughts after an experience I had recently. A conversation that I had with a friend spurred some deep thought on my part regarding this wonderful and sometimes paralyzing paradox of optimism or hope.

Before I get into details on my thoughts, let me share with you what I have personally experienced and also what I see others experience. First, my own story.


The friend I was speaking about had a relationship just end that was similar to one of my own a few years ago.

You know the kind or maybe you have been in one yourself? The one where one of the two of you gives more, bends backwards, walks on egg shells, is more unselfish, and does everything they can for the other person, all while the other person takes more, is more self centered, and ultimately not fulfilling to the giving one. This friend of mine was dating a guy who is and was a good guy, but she found herself empty, unfulfilled, and frustrated with his selfish nature and self-absorption that led to her leaving him, even though she invested so much.

For me, a few years ago, I dated a girl for quite a long time that I adored. She was smart, insanely attractive, funny, hard working, and quirky. When we first started talking/dating, we clicked and had a great time just enjoying our conversations together. It naturally progressed into a relationship with intense romantic feelings. As time went on, it became more and more unhealthy on both of our sides, until one day I realized that I was the one giving 90% in the relationship to keep it together and was feeling unfulfilled.

The problem was for both my friend and I, is that we HOPED and were OPTIMISTIC that things would get better. So we stayed in an unhealthy relationship because of that part of us that HOPED for change in a positive direction.

My friend and I have realized since then, that our ex's and us were probably better off as friends who we loved dearly, rather than people in a relationship together.

Will touch base on this in just one moment, but another example....


One point in my life, I was regularly consulting small businesses on marketing systems, culture shifts, human processes, and also just conflict management with employees. I worked with this doctor's office with a small team that had many issues. 1-They did not have enough clients coming in the door. 2-The management pushed for a positive environment, but inadvertently encouraged negative behavior. 3-They HOPED that things would get better.

One thing I found is that they were all naturally positive people. The management team, the employees, the office staff were all incredibly nice, upbeat and positive. They had positive notes all over the office, they had the mission statement, they had everything on the surface that one would think would be necessary for a positive successful business. However, they were struggling.

Their strategy for marketing was more focused on what they hoped would happen, like posting something on social media or word of mouth instead of an actual game plan. They had issues with staff and conflict with how they did things, but instead of talking about it and being "negative" they continued the course of just being positive about it.

Ultimately what it came down to was they were struggling to keep the doors open. So what was going on? Why did they struggle in business even though on the surface they were positive and did the best they could?

Here is what I find in myself and maybe you get this way too. Naturally most people I think are optimistic and positive. The danger in being TOO positive or TOO hopeful or TOO optimistic is that you are not able to see things as they REALLY are.

I am not suggesting to forever be a Grinch, Scrooge, or Anti-Pollyana. What I am suggesting is being willing to look at the things that are not working for you.

Being willing to get real with how you feel on anything that may appear to be negative is one of the key ways to find solutions to move forward.

Isn't something you hear all the time in business is "Find a problem that people are experiencing and sell them the solution?" Isn't that what most companies are built on? At some point, someone somewhere had to say, THIS IS NOT WORKING! Has to be a better way. Being real with what is not working for you is the cornerstone of change and ingenuity.

In relationships like I was in, first thing you do is be real with the other person. In a healthy relationship, they will listen and do what they can to come together on whatever it is going on. What works? What does not work? What can you both do to be more connected and more fulfilled in the relationship?

In an unhealthy relationship, it will quickly become evident that the other person or maybe even you is not ready to make the changes needed to have the relationship you want.

In a business, its being willing to take a look at marketing, branding, systems, processes, management, employees, and other items that are not working and instead use that as a way to find solutions. Ask again, what is working? What is not working? What is being ignored? What can be improved? "The worst phrase in business is this 'This is how we have always done it'"

My whole point in bringing this subject up is not to say being pessimistic or realistic is the way to go. My point is talking to those hopeless romantics, those optimistic people, and those forever positive-the-Secret-loving-never-look-at-negative people... like myself, to consider looking at what is or what is not working EARLIER on instead of ignoring how you feel.

One of the first books my Mom made sure I read as a kid was "Feelings buried alive never die" all focusing around mental and emotional health. I have realized that how we feel as humans, BOTH good and bad are all gifts and messages to us. If something is not good, or does not work, it is a gift to us to find solutions to make us better, not paralyzed by something potentially negative.

My message to you is to get real with yourself, your relationships, your business, your job, your life.

What works? What does not work? Are you willing to change what is not working? Are the people in your life who you have relationships with, willing to listen and support the change or are they not?

This message goes out to all of you. I promise if you take a look at this, it will dramatically change your life or my warning to you if you do not, is that a part of yourself will die because you are unwilling to listen to your soul desperately calling for help.

Listen. To. Your. Heart. And. Soul.

Be real, be optimistic, be you and Unleash Greatness that is already within you.


Jonathan is a certified life, success, and emotional health coach and a MBA Candidate. He is also an award winning singer-songwriter and producer with his songs being featured on FOX Sports, PAC 12 football, and Mood Media.  He is passionate about assisting others in bringing out their passion and greatness.  You can find him at or on Social Media @unleashg

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