Fatal optimism!

How often have you got into that never ending trap that says; “Tomorrow is mine”! and what’s even worst is that we have tons and tons of garbage in the form of books, training material and mindless talks, examples which go on to try (and try very hard) to hard wire this thought of “never dying spirit of the human mind”, “don’t ever give up, no matter what” – well to be honest and in your face, time to face the mirror- it simply doesn’t work that way! It never did!

Now before you start to come up with judgement and a prejudice if I am actually screwing up your mind totally and you think of sending me a stinker of an email- wait- pause and hold yourself for that extra second. Just answer my question- “If all these techniques are so awesome and so accurate- with thousands of training’s happening every second, somewhere across the world- over so many decades- why hasn’t the world changed over time to be a better place with all that wisdom and glorified thinking at individual and group/society level? No, don’t start jumping to answers right away… take a pause and come back…. the flaw is not about the intent or the knowledge or the method- it is in the intent of the recipient and the flawed application of knowledge with misplaced intent! the sole reason for all the misery of mankind! The biggest among them is the fatal optimism that comes out of the rooms after all that pumped up training sessions and reading!

So now the million dollar question- what is this all about and how do we deal with this epic shit which kind of gnaws away common sense and logic even among the brightest of our stars across academia and the corporate world!

This is what really happens and what manifests this problem of fatal optimism.

Since time in memorial- “knowledge” has been guarded across civilizations and societies in funny and dangerous ways- our ancestors rightly believed in the maxim- knowledge is power and that it landing in hands of intellectually constipated minds can actually wreak havoc and do more harm than good! Hence over the eons different cultures devised structured ways to share knowledge in a way that only the very mindful and eligible would eventually be able to have the greatest exposure to the repository over a long learning curve- which continually assessed the intent of recipient at all times ( I am more specifically referring here to ancient Indian system of “gurukul” wherein all students would advance basis of merit rather than social status and standing. Of course there’s much more to that- but this article is not for debating and detailing this bit)

The point that I am trying to make here is simple- as we lost the upper hand in guarding the meritocracy with regards to access of knowledge, its use- cascading interpretation and then subsequent application all began to get into a downward spiral of diminishing intellect!

So how do we beat this- again a simple approach- choose your students carefully! Easier said then done in today’s era where- every trainer, coach (even like me) tries to make a living and hence is caught between the eternal dilemma “Will this stone in front of me breathe, live and let live!” Well , not everyone is really that messed up, let me be honest. In fact one approach that has helped me a lot to avoid people and my clients to get into the trap of fatal optimism, has been to do a realistic and honest expectation setting (from the coaching or training or engagement). This helps a big deal to ensure my clients do not end up in a optimism trap- because we all know the Sun will never rise in the west, no matter how hard you wish for that, and if it does- you are not going to be around to see that utopian sunrise- that’s a scientifically backed up certainty!

This one fundamental approach of grounding and setting right expectations, helps me to ensure my clients do not enter into the dangerous zone of “fatal optimism” which can be more destructive than having a general lack of confidence and or pessimism!

A few sure signs of fatal optimism are for all of us to see- living beyond one’s means, trying to take up assignments which cannot be delivered, promising the moon and stars to your boss each time targets are discussed and simple failure to see your own face in the mirror and always seeing the reflection of your twisted mental frame which is always grinning and smiling for no reason! These manifestations look innocent, funny and stupid but continued over a long time take shape of chronic ailments which is similar to running after a butterfly that never was! This becomes all the more complicated when people with these symptoms occupy chairs of responsibility- you can find them easily in offices- they lead the teams with the highest attrition and have a polarized team environment bordering on chaos and ambiguity and waiting for a spark to ignite into a massive fireball which has the potential to engulf an organisation depending on how high the chair is from where this misplaced optimism comes!

Do the world and yourself a big favor, and help avoid the spread of this chronic ailment of misplaced optimism which is fatal! Following simple clinical steps- like managing expectations, measuring changes in behavior over time and calibrating them across results is all that is needed ot ensure that we help our clients steer away from this dangerous fallacy of mindless “fatal optimism” and it goes a long way to make life good and enriching not only for the individual but this revived mental health also helps the immediate social circle at home and work to make the world a better place one person- one circle at a time!

At Simplifylives, we do a genuine effort to ensure every interaction has created value and brought in more clarity, direction and intent to keep away negating and dragging attributes like “fatal optimism” as much as we can!

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