With all this talk about happiness and optimism - a natural question typically arises:
Can positivity be overdone?
Can you in fact have too much positivity?
The answer is YES.
You can actually have irrational optimism. I know that sounds a little harsh. Yet when I really think about it, I can think of people who I have known that may have fit right into this category. Optimistic to the point on being completely unrealistic.
Irrational optimism causes us to act...well...irrationally. To do things we are not in fact able to do. To live outside out means. Take unreasonable risks. Sugar coat the truth.
There has been a lot of research done around the concept of positive illusions. When a person creates self deceptive positivity - which may feel good in the short term, but can have less than ideal consequences.
When we in fact start to over estimate our ability, environment or situation - positivity can become a negative.
Now for most of us, we will never encounter this issue. If you ask me, trying to stay positive most of the time is hard enough. I can't quite imagine completely blocking out the negative.
Negativity does have its use in certain situations. Take pessimism for instance. A pessimistic attitude or gut reaction can save you from making a rash or risky decision.
Same goes for being critical. Looking at a situation critically can bring some very important details to light. A wrong that may need to be made right.
We can't completely shut out the negatives in our life - it is just unrealistic. We need to find balance. Shawn Achor describes it beautifully in The Happiness Advantage:
"a reasonable, realistic, healthy sense of optimism."
Reasonable. Realistic. Healthy.
We often hear the term - rose colored glasses. An unrealistic, nieve optimism through which some see the world. Shawn Achor instead suggests a perfect idea: rose tinted glasses.
Rose tinted glasses "let the really major problems into our field of vision, while keeping our focus largely on the positive."
I am not asking you to be overly positive all of the time. Because it can become a hinderance. But rather, adopt a positive outlook most of the time. And understand when negative tendencies have their place, and when they do not.
We can not ignore risk or reason. But when it comes down to it, positivity always prevails.
"In business and in life, the reasonable optimist will win every time." - Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
So yes, you can in fact be too optimistic. But remember that being too optimistic is really quite hard to do. Most of us will just struggle with trying to find positivity on a regular basis since our brains are trained so well to find the negative in our environment.