There are many methods by which to differentiate the temperament of human beings. One of these is to categorize people as either optimists or pessimists. This categorization distinguishes people based on how they view the world and how they interpret the events that occur in their lives. An optimist is a person who tends to expect the best to come out of a series of events and who sees things with a hopeful and confident attitude. In contrast, a pessimist is one who is inclined to emphasize the negative aspects of events and stresses the worst possible outcome that might eventually occur. When these two types of people are interviewed, optimists report that their quality of life is better than that of pessimists. Why is this true and what does this say about how each of these kinds of people views the world and their place in it?
Much that goes into how people report quality of life is determined by their expectations and beliefs about life and their future prospects for that life. By nature, an optimist will tend to see life in more positive terms and, therefore, evaluate their current status as being of a higher quality than will a pessimist. In situations where an optimist and a pessimist have similar life situations, the optimist will tend to view his or her quality of life as higher than will a pessimist. An optimist will look at a current situation and focus on the potential for how the details of those situations can grow and improve, while a pessimist will focus on the details that could worsen and create a more negative set of circumstances. No individual looks at a current stage of life and sees it as static. Each person will take his or her current situation and strive to determine what that situation means for the future. The more likely that a person is hopeful, the more likely that he or she will evaluate a current status as being of a higher quality of life.
Pessimists are often people who investigate details and who seek to know as much about a current situation as possible. This intense focus on details will often draw out even unlikely or limited possibilities. Such a tendency can lead to expectations that are out of line with reality. The knowledge that a particular bad event has happened or could possibly happen has the tendency to warp how an individual views current events and interprets them for the future. Such a lack of hope can not only affect how a person views the world, but it can also impact a person’s belief that he or she can make circumstances better in the future. How an individual interprets quality of life today and the circumstances that make up that life can have a direct impact on the ability or desire of a person to make that life better in the future. A pessimist will often give way to the belief that there is nothing that he or she can do about the negative aspects of life. The less hopeful that a person is, the more likely that he or she will remain in negative situations and, therefore, the quality of life of such a person will either remain the same or, more likely, become more negative over time.
The hopefulness at the root of the optimist’s personality is very often the catalyst for improving quality of life and for getting the best out of current circumstances. Such hopefulness enables the optimist to take current circumstances and to search out ways in which to make these circumstances work for an improved quality of life in the future. The belief that things are good and that they can become better allows the optimist to look at the same circumstances as a pessimist but to use these circumstances in a way that will make his or her quality of life better. The optimist does not need to ignore the reality of a situation but is able to focus on those elements that are both the best currently and which can be used to make life better in the future. By not putting as much pressure or setting as high a standard for what makes quality of life good in the present, an optimist is under less stress in the present and believes that less is required to make quality of life better in the future. The optimist is willing to accept that things may not be the best currently but that they can change and that this change will improve quality of life in the future. There is a great power in the hopefulness produced by optimism and such hope is able to overcome temporary setbacks without giving way to the despondency that can often cause a pessimist to give up or do little to improve a current situation.
There is a close connection between belief and results. If a person truly believes that things will not get better then that belief will often create the reality that it expects. An optimist is not a person who denies negative circumstances, but is one who believes that such circumstances can be the seedbed for better results in the future. In contrast, a pessimist is often so focused on the negative aspects of a current set of circumstances that he or she is unable to see how they can become better or how they can be used to make life better. Even in circumstances where the seeds of better things are there in potential, a pessimist’s disposition will get in the way of seeing how that potential can become a reality. Only those people who are able to maintain a significant enough level of belief that things can become better in the future are capable of taking a present quality of life and making that quality better over time. Reporting a higher quality of life is as much an estimate of current reality as it is an interpretation of how a present set of circumstances can become the seeds out of which a future quality of life can be created.
Quality of life is by nature a subjective assessment and this is seen very clearly in how it is evaluated by optimists and pessimists. There are a number of reasons both factual and interpretive that optimists report a higher quality of life than pessimists. Even in cases where optimists and pessimists are at a similar place of life, the optimist will see within the circumstances a higher current quality of life that reflects both current conditions and the possibilities for better things that are inherent within them. The optimist, in contrast to the pessimist, has a quality of hopefulness that enables him or her to create out of any set of circumstances a higher quality of life in the future. The pessimist is often so focused on the negative aspects of life that the quality of that life suffers as a result. All of these factors leads to the reality that optimists will report a higher quality of life than pessimists and will tend to do so over time as well.