Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pessimism vs. Optimism

It's so easy to get caught up in a cycle of negativity. Trust me on this one. I've got the DNA for negativity. But the first step towards improvement is awareness, right? I've had a lot of practice, and once I realize my mindset is heading south, I'm pretty good at turning my thinking around.


I've had some help too. My coach Becky refuses to let me complain or even apologize for a less than stellar effort. In fact, if I utter a negative thought, it's burpees for me. You can't make a runner run for punishment, right? Don't tell her this, but while I don't know that I'll ever love burpees, I'm minding them less. I've gotten stronger and they aren't as hard as they used to be for me.

Maybe that's all part of her plan?

Anyways, life has tried its hardest to drag me down these last couple of weeks. As Cousin Eddie would say, "shitter's full".
Sorry for the crude reference.
From National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Enough's enough. When Deb gave this week's Wednesday Word prompt, the word optimism, at first, I thought, what do I have to say about being optimistic? Life hasn't exactly been a bowl of cherries lately.

As it turns out, I have a whole lot to say. I recently wrote that post about training in the winter. I'm going to expand these thoughts to running in general. Maybe even life in general.

Clearly, I need this. Let's break it down:

-The pessimist just complains or whines. It feels good at the time but gets you nothing.
-The optimist acknowledges the issue, but turns their thoughts around to a positive mindset. If you struggle with this, like I do, then maybe you need an extra push over to positivity.
-I've included mantras to repeat to yourself when you're feeling particularly negative.
-And because I'm a goofball, there's the jokester's perspective, which just basically makes fun of everything. I do that too. Because sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh.

Don't roll your eyes. It really works.

Meet the Pessimist, the Optimist, and the Jokester and their approach to the run:

Pessimist: It's cold, it's dark, it's hot, it's raining (whatever).
Optimist: Wow, -2F! That's pretty cold. But the sun is out. I've done this before. I can do this. I can do hard things. I'll need to layer up. OR Yes, it's raining. It can't always be sunny when I run. Running in the rain can feel good.
Jokester: Free shower!
Mantra: If we waited for perfect conditions, we'd never get anything done.

Embrace the conditions.
Pessimist: Man, this run sucks. I feel horrible. I'm a sloth. I give up. I'm going home.
Optimist: I do feel tired today. Not every run is a good one. But I told myself I'd get 4 miles in today, and I'm going to do that. No matter what it takes. I'll feel so much better for finishing.
Jokester: There's pie at home!
Mantra: Not every run may be good, but there's something good in every run.

There's something good in every run. This was my first speedwork session last summer while training for Chicago. The good thing? I finished.
Pessimist: I loathe the treadmill. I feel like a hamster on a wheel. This sucks. I hate this.
Optimist: I don't like running on the treadmill. How can I make the most of this workout? Intervals? Speedwork? I've got a great playlist to help push me.
Jokester: (singing) "I'm on the road to nowhere..."
Mantra: Every step takes me closer to my goal.

I do loathe the treadmill. It's a necessary evil. Every step takes me closer to my goal.
Pessimist: I don't want to run 20 miles. It's too far!
Optimist: 20 miles is really far! I'm going to feel so much more ready for my marathon after tackling that distance!
Jokester: Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.
Mantra: I can and I will.

Last long run before Chicago. I can and I will.
Pessimist: Running is hard.
Optimist: Running isn't easy, but I'm getting stronger with each run.
Jokester: Run? I thought you said rum.
Mantra: The body achieves what the mind believes.


This was a great exercise for me. Forcing myself to write about optimism actually helped me feel more optimistic as I look forward to February and starting my marathon training cycle. I'm sure I'll be coming back to this post to remind myself to always look on the bright side!
"Imagine something good about every race you run, and learn to be an optimist."-Jack Daniels

What to do you do to turn those negative thoughts around? Are you naturally an optimist? A pessimist? A jokester? What's your favorite mantra?

I have a new one after Monday's yoga class: Chill Out or Burn Out.  Best advice I've gotten lately.

I'm linking up with DebRuns at Wednesday Word. Check out what all the optimists are saying!

72 comments :

  1. My family laughs at me because even when I try to be grumpy and defeatist I just can't :-)
    I have my core I am an optimist. At my core I am the "my glass is so full it's overflowing may I pour some in yours??"

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    1. I am an optimist too. Believe it or not. I guess you can be both negative and positive? LOL

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  2. What a great take on optimism. My take? I love blogging, but I simply have too many other household things trumping my computer time, and when I finally get "caught up," I'll be able to blog without guilt. (Let's hope this mantra succeeds!). I often wonder where I stand on the optimist vs. pessimist. I tend to see the negative situations (almost immediately), but my mind seems to quickly jump to happy thoughts...maybe an attempt to keep me in my little happy bubble? Denial? (I'm stalking this link-up, even though I have nothing to share.... #glasshalffull) ;-)

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    1. I'm very similar (again!). I try really hard to see the good in everything.

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  3. I like to say that I'm a recovering perfectionist, which in some ways lends itself to negativity. If something doesn't go exactly right, I would consider it ruined or a waste. I'm slowly learning to be a little more flexible and patient. It's one of my big goals for self improvement and while I'm not running now, I'm hoping it will pay off big time when I train for my next big goal. -C

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    1. I'm such a perfectionist and I recognize the pitfalls of that! I hope that I too can be a recovering perfectionist! The people around me would be oh so grateful.

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  4. My husband is the eternal optimist... until he isn't, and then the world is ending. I am a trenchant realist, with a bit of optimism left over for kicks. When I was more of a perfectionist, I was way more pessimistic, but I would start off optimistic. Like, "I can totally do that" and then 30s later, "NO I CAN'T." Ultimately, we have to get out of our own GD way.

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    1. My husband is a pessimist...altho he likes to say he's a realist. Ha!

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  5. LOVE THIS! I am a jokester like you and turn situations around that way. Otherwise I might just start to cry.

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    1. Isn't that the truth? I have to laugh. Sometimes inappropriately...

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  6. What a great perspective to have on so many aspects of running. Its always so easy to see the bad side of things, but by taking a step back and reevaluating things its easy to see the positive, or potential positive, in something.

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    1. I always try to see the positive in things. But sometimes it is easy to get bogged down in negativity.

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  7. Another great post, Wendy! Geez, how do you keep churning them out?

    I am definitely an optimist and I do love mantras. One I use frequently is simply telling myself this is a great run (even when it's not).

    So not a jokester, but food can and does motivate me to finish runs. :)

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    1. This morning's speedwork was mentally tough on the last mile. I pulled out some positivity and reminded myself how good it would feel to complete all 4 splits. And I did!

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  8. This is a great take on today's word. I love that you find humor in every circumstance too. Sometimes we must laugh to keep from crying right?? I've gone through many of these negative emotions recently and your support and encouragement helped to yank me back to reality. Have a great day Wendy!

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    1. Oh, sister, you and me both. I really don't want to cry anymore!

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  9. I have negativity in my DNA as well, and have become the Queen of self-talk/motivation. I love this post.

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  10. Optimism is a muscle and the more we exercise it the stronger it gets. I'm all for finding the humor in even the worst things. Sometimes laugh is truly all you can do.

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    1. Oooh, I like that! Flexing my optimism muscle...

      I have been accused of laughing inappropriately at times...

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  11. This is great! The funny thing is I think when it comes to running, I do tend to be much more optimistic. I need to find a way to be that way in other areas of my life!

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    1. I'm right there with you! It's a work in progress!

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  12. Chuck Norris doesn't run marathons. Marathons run Chuck Norris.

    Thank you for reminding me with your "there's pie at home" that I have a pumpkin roll in the car. Guess I should run first so I can "earn it" right?

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  13. Thanks! I so needed this today! January is so hard for a runner. But hey! I'm able to run and yes there is good in every run! :-)

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    1. You and me both. This PF is getting to me! Just keep running...

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  14. These are great lessons to be learned. I'm definitely an optimist by nature but we all have those days that turn pessimistic. Turning around negative thoughts is a valuable tool to cope with those days.

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    1. I've been really negative lately, and I have to remind myself to stop complaining. It doesn't help anything!

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  15. As a runner, you know there are always so many things that can go wrong, like the weather, injury, crowding, whatever. I think by hearing everyone complain about a multitude of things on social media has helped me become more optimistic because I see how silly it is! I can control me and that's it. Everything else, we'll, I just gotta roll with it and make the best of it, right?

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    1. You know I wrote this for myself, right? It's been a tough month for a lot of us. Making the best of things is all we can do.

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  16. Great concrete ways to turn those negative thoughts around! I do the same things when I start to get bogged down. I'm a realist/optimist with a bit of a jokester too!

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    1. Sometimes there is nothing to do but laugh!

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  17. I wish I could say I was an optimist but I tend to go down the "worst case scenario" road more often that I care to admit. I have gotten better at realizing that and turning that thought pattern around. I guess that's something to be positive about right??

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    1. You know that awareness is the first step towards improvement...:p

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  18. I am both an optimist and a worrier so try to figure that out! LOL! I have to overcome "stinkin' thinkin'" from time to time but I always find my way out of negative mindsets.

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    1. Haha! Stinkin' thinkin'! I've never heard that, but I'm pretty sure it will make me smile the rest of the day!

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  19. I think for the most part, I am an optimist when it comes to running. I don't resort to the tm just because it's cold, I just go out there.

    I do my long runs no matter what and the halfs no matter how slow.

    Those negative thoughts do creep in before every one (what if I can't or I get hurt) but I just block them out and do it. If it sucks, I just sign up for another.

    I am B+.

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  20. I can be cynical, but most of the time I'm a optimist. All will be well is my mantra. It's so easy to focus on the gross weather or the treadmill slog, but at the end of the day I have my legs, I have my health, there's food on the table after my workout, and I live in a country where women can freely do things like run, and that gratitude overrides any pessimism and carries me through.

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    1. I know, I always have to remind myself of my first world problems!

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  21. I fluctuate between the 2 for sure. I try to be optimistic on the outside always even if I am feeling down about something. Eventually the optimism takes over. Negativity is too exhausting!

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    1. I try pull myself up when things are pulling me down, for sure. If nothing else, I've got that sense of humor...

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  22. I am naturally an optimist. I am generally in a good mood and look for the good in situations. Because seriously, ANY situation can be looked at with negativity, but that doesn't help anything.

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    1. It doesn't help to be negative but it's easy to get caught up in negativity!

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  23. I'm an optimist with a heavy dose of sarcasm. I don't like myself when negativity starts taking over. Favorite mantra (from former pro-cyclist Jens Voigt) "Shut up legs!"

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    1. Oooh, I knew I liked you!!! I"m fluent in sarcasm...

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  24. I've discovered that If I just decide that I can run X miles, then I can. I've been using a lot of replacing "I have to" with "I get to".... it works.

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    1. Isn't the the truth? We never "have to" run. We get to. I think about that a lot!

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  25. This is a really great way of looking at things. The way we approach our situations or tasks at hand has a HUGE impact on the outcome! I would definitely consider myself an optimist and also use mantras quite often during tough spin classes. My favourite is "I am stronger than this."

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    1. I just won a Momentum wrist wrap that says "stronger than yesterday". Love it.

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  26. All of these mantras are great! I think I'm pretty optimistic although I tend to worry too much. Can I do both? My mantras are probably more like the Jokester's (and I'm adding Pass the Tartar Sauce to my list). I've got to say how much I adore Cousin Eddie and that movie. It stays on my DVR recorded list 365 days a year! {Ding...Doonnggg}

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  27. Very interesting! I think I'm the math nerd - a new category for your list. I have to break every hard workout down into crazy fractions in order to mentally occupy myself and keep me motivated to continue. Tonight I had 20 minute lactate threshold run off the bike and today was the first time coach gave to me without a 1 min break between the first and second 10 minutes. Boy did I ever have to play mind games. Well, I'm 25% done with the interval, but really 50% done with the first ten minutes...and so on and so forth.

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    1. I do that when I'm running intervals on the treadmill! Just did that kind of a breakdown this morning.

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  28. I love how you broke this all down. I also love the burpee punishment for negativity.

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    1. It's one of those punishments you love to hate!

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  29. You are so right...sometimes it is easier to slip into a cycle of negativity! Oh and I love the ideas of burpees for complaining!! Another great post Wendy!

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    1. Thank you! And I almost got burpees this morning...

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  30. What a great post! I have a post waiting in my drafts about this topic (more about dealing with negative people *around* you) and a lot of these tips help!! I think I'm more of an optimist short term but the pessimist long term if that makes sense, lol! @Hellyontherun

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading your take on this!

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  31. Oh wow, Wendy, this was awesome! I love how you looked at each situation from the perspective of an optimist, a pessimist, and a jokester! So fun, and the mantras are great.

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. Thanks for another great prompt! These are great exercises for my writing muscle!

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  32. I love how you took different situations and showed them from three different perspectives, with a common take home message for each. I think that's a great process to use when you do find yourself being very pessimistic about a certain situation. Look at it from an optimistic point of view. Or, if you don't feel like taking yourself too seriously, find a way to make a joke. In the end, we all need to whine a little every now and then. But it's not necessary to do so all of the time. That only brings us down, along with others around us.

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    1. A little whine is ok. Everything in moderation, right?

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  33. Love this! I agree, sometimes you just have laugh, there is nothing else to do! A little whining and bitching is ok with girlfriends and a couple cocktails :)

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    1. Laughing makes everything better, right? Along with a glass of wine!

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  34. My husband calls me a pessimist because I like to prepare myself for the worst and be pleasantly surprised if the worst doesn't happen. I call that realism, not pessimism ;)

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    1. My husband is the pessimist at our house. He too calls himself a realist.

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  35. There is pie at home is a perfect mantra lol
    I tetter between all these on a daily basis! As the days pass and I am not healing very quickly it becomes much more challenging to remain optimistic. I hit reset last night and manges to stay on the gym cycle for almost two hours pedaling hills :) man, does my tush hurt.

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    1. Hurts, so good right? Do what you can...you will get better!

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