Pessimism; Optimism; Realism

“The pessimist complains about the wind;

the optimist expects it to change;

the realist adjusts the sails.”

~ William Arthur Ward

I came across this quote the other day and thought it explained perfectly how I see my view of the world. People often think I’m a pessimist because I talk and write about unpleasant things. I guess they think the way to deal with unpleasant things is to ignore them, and ‘hope’ they go away. Unfortunately, expecting the woes of the world to be magically fixed is not necessarily the best way to deal with the predicaments we are facing. I think that a better solution would be to acknowledge the situation as it is, and then work towards living a life that will be rich and meaningful even if these events do come to pass.

Knowing which way the wind is blowing and having an idea of where it will be blowing in the future allows us to adjust our sails so we are productively moving in the right direction, no matter what.  If we simply sit by and complain about the wind or hope that it will change, we risk being buffeted by the enormous storm coming our way. So, plot your course, keep an eye on which way the wind is blowing,  set your sails and enjoy the ride.

Photo by: wili hybrid


  1. “I think that a better solution would be to acknowledge the situation as it is, and then work towards living a life that will be rich and meaningful even if these events do come to pass.”

    Here, here! Couldn’t agree more. Which is why people who bury their heads in the sand and refuse to contemplate that life could be good, (let alone better) than it is now if we could just stop consuming our environment annoy me so much.

    On a lighter note, a bulk carrier (shop) loaded with coal ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef the other day and is (I have heard) leaking fuel. All because these ships are taking a short cut through the reef to save fuel. It appears that they see which way the wind is blowing, but still insist on fighting it …

  2. On top of being called a pessimist people also seem to think we are really ‘scared’, and that’s why we left the city to set up a farm and grow our own food. It seems easier for those who refuse to see anything is wrong to adopt the notion that we uproot our whole lives out of fear than out of choice. I see it that we proactively made the best choice for us (adjusted our sails), and we are happy and comfortable with what we did!

    Incidentally LS, I visited the Great Barrier Reef two years ago and it already looked pretty dead, which I really didn’t expect. Reading about this ship somehow didn’t come as that much of a surprise 😦

  3. Woops. That should have been “ship” not “shop”, but I dare say that the context probably made that clear 😦

    @tearmunn: that’s pretty sad to hear about the Great Barrier Reef. I have read a few articles recently worrying about what the death of reefs will mean for the ocean ecosystems and (of course) human food supply (nothing good). It’s an indication of how tight things are financially when ship owners will risk their vessels being wrecked just to save a few extra hours of fuel by taking a treacherous short cut.

    I see the way the wind in blowing alright …

  4. After thinking about it for a long time I finally realised that the optimism-pessimism dimension is not the whole story. There’s also the question of how confident we are in our expectations about the future. Here, our natural tendency is to overestimate our ability to forecast the future.

    I wrote about it on my website in “Optimism, pessimism, and open-minded realism”, which is here

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