“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” ~ George Carlin
Just about every single event that a person can experience on this Earth can be approached in one of two ways: cynically or enthusiastically. Which are you? A cynic or enthusiast? Do you even know?
Though not everyone sees things in such a black and white manner, there is always an air of subjectivity to a person’s perspective – meaning nothing can ever truly be seen from an objective point of view. While it would be absolutely ideal if everyone could see from the same perspective once in a while, it’s just not possible.
On the surface, you might think that enthusiasm is 100% beneficial and cynicism will end up getting you nowhere, but like I said, the issue isn’t so black and white. The most important thing to realize is that each outlook is an extreme, so to be completely tilted to one side or the other is sure to lead to disaster.
Believe it or not, a healthy dose of cynicism and enthusiasm is necessary in order to best handle each situation you face in life.
Additionally, somewhere in between cynicism and enthusiasm lies skepticism – a certain educated doubtfulness about the world and the events that take place within it.
While cynicism and pessimism cause us to think irrationally negative thoughts, skepticism allows for a fairly realistic perspective while not being so optimistic that we’re blinded to what actually lies before us. By staying skeptical, we allow our minds to see the world as objectively as humanly possible.
Cynicism is easy; Enthusiasm takes effort
When you approach life in a cynical way, you inherently tend to believe that things won’t work out the way you want them to. This ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy at times: you don’t have high hopes for success, so you don’t put the necessary effort into your work, which in turn results in you falling short of your true goal.
Of course, the cynic will ignore the fact that he didn’t put his all into his work, and will simply believe he was right all along — it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.
On the other hand, being enthusiastic and optimistic means you have high hopes for every single experience in life. While it’s great to approach situations with the mindset that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, it’s simply not healthy to turn a blind eye to the possibility of failure.
Not only could this end up devastating you, but you’ll also have to deal with the cynics who will be more than happy to say “I told you so!” when you fall short of a goal. Again, they’ll ignore all the times you did succeed, and only point out the times that your efforts ended up not being worth it.
Cynicism is safe; Enthusiasm involves taking risks
Cynics operate under the idea that if you don’t expect much, you won’t be let down when things go awry. I’m reminded of the times I bombed a test in high school and rationalized it by saying “Eh, I didn’t study” or “Eh, I didn’t really try my hardest.” Again, there’s that self-fulfilling prophecy: maybe if I did study, I would have gotten a much better grade.
Looking back on those times, I can admit that I was intimidated by the smarter kids in my class who seemed to pass with flying colors with minimal effort. My thought process was that not doing well because I didn’t try was more manageable than trying my hardest and falling short anyway.
However, what I failed to realize is that if I had found a way to approach my schoolwork with enthusiasm, I might have gotten the kick I needed to earn that better grade. Just like in every other aspect of life, nothing is gained without taking a certain risk. While cynicism keeps you “safe,” it also keeps you standing still in life.
Being enthusiastic about everything in life causes you to constantly expand your comfort zone and moving forward in different ways. You might fall short sometimes, but it’s better to take two steps forward and one step back than to never take steps in either direction.
A Healthy Dose of Each
As I said earlier, being too optimistic or too cynical will almost certainly lead to disaster. It’s important to keep both sides of your mind in check throughout every situation you face in life.
For those of you familiar with Parks and Recreation, you’ve seen Leslie Knope’s overly-optimistic personality blind her to the reality of pretty much every situation she had to deal with – and you’ve also seen how Ron Swanson’s overly pessimistic outlook resulted in absolutely nothing getting done. But when they actually decided to work together, their contrasting points of view actually complemented each other.
Being realistic in your daily endeavors is extremely important. While you obviously should approach each obstacle you face truly believing you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, you should also be wary of circumstances that are beyond your control that absolutely will cause you to falter.
But on the other hand, you shouldn’t simply quit when you reach these roadblocks and rationalize your failure by saying “it is what it is.” Instead, go back to the drawing board, as the saying goes, and figure out how you can work to accomplish your goal as best as possible.