New scientific evidence finds that people whose personalities have a mix of optimism and pessimism may be happier and more successful, according to Taiwanese researchers.
People who fall into this category are dubbed "realistic optimists," in that they have the positive outlook of optimists tempered with the realism of pessimists.
Sophia Chou, an organizational psychology researcher at National Taiwan University, gave 200 college students a battery of tests to assess their personality types.
"Realistic optimists tend to choose accuracy over self-enhancement; the unrealistic optimists tend to choose self-enhancement," Chou said, according to a report in LiveScience last week.
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Students who were categorized as realistic optimists scored better grades, which Chou cites as the result of understanding that you have to study and work hard for success.
Prior research has found that a combination of realism and pessimism is associated with greater depression, but in Chou's study a balance of optimism and realism resulted in increased happiness and a positive outlook, even when faced with a challenging situation.
"Every time they face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they won't say 'I have no choice and this is the only thing I can do.' They will be creative, they will have a plan A, plan B and plan C," Chou said in the report.
Downside is that realistic optimists were more prone to anxiety than purely optimistic people, likely because they see failure as a possibility, unlike optimists, who believe anything is possible.
The best approach? Learn to cultivate a rosy-but-realistic outlook by maintaining "a clear-eyed view of reality" while emphasizing what you can control in most situations, she said.
Chou presented her findings at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in Hawaii.