Pessimist or Optimist: What’s Your Outlook on Life?


by Howard M. Cohen defines the word “outlook” as: (a) a place offering a view; (b) a view from a particular place; (c) a point of view; (d) the act of looking out; (e) the prospect for the future.

In this article, I will attempt to explain how all these definitions of “outlook” can be applied to how we perceive or view our own lives. And, specifically, how that perception may influence how we operate in our own world each day.


Let’s “look” at definition a, which says an outlook can be a “place offering a view”. If the place we are at in our lives is a low point, we may not see many choices for us. We may feel struck down or even stuck in a hole, trying to dig ourselves out. If we are at the high point of our existence, we may see endless possibilities and limitless abilities to accomplish our dreams. Doesn’t that perch sound more inviting? Sometimes, we can choose the view we wish to see for ourselves.

Definition b says our outlook can be described as our view from a particular place. I’m wondering where that place might be. Is our vantage point from feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship or is it from a place of happiness and satisfaction? And, can’t that view affect your mood and emotional state and how you decide to move forward or not?

I feel your specific “point of view” as stated in definition c is created from the sum total of all your life experiences. It usually begins with learning your parents’ point of view and whether that meshes with your own perspective. Your perspective on life becomes the determining factor on how you will manage your own ups and downs that life may present to you.

The act of looking out as outlined in d is also crucial to becoming resilient and discovering other possible opportunities. If you merely look inward, you miss the chance to grow and flourish as a complete person. When you look outward, you see many choices and especially the potential to uncover many more of them.

This leads us to the last definition of outlook which is the prospect for the future. I believe the key to developing a good vision for the future is whether or not you see your life in a positive or negative way. If you are often worried or fearful, you might just unconsciously create an environment that feels like that all the time. If you imagine or hope that things might get better, down the road or in the near future, you will see how your outlook can be changed.

Some of you may be saying, “Well, I’m a realistic person and I know how everything is going to play out for me.” You may not realize it, but that kind of outlook statement is already defining for you how it’s actually going to go!

I have heard many people talk about perpetual positive persons (don’t you love the alliteration?) or cock-eyed optimists (an older term) and how ridiculous they can be. Some naysayers feel that people should be upbeat (only at certain times) and not be false and pretend that they are happy. And, more definitively, some people feel we should face the harsh reality that life gives us and expect that we’ll get more and more doses of tough times in the future. I don’t disagree that there will always be “bumps along the road” of life, but I also believe these obstacles can teach us important lessons and that they can also shift our perspective to make the needed improvements.

Ah, now we have come full circle back to perspective! Now, isn’t that just another way to describe our outlook on our world? What’s your individual perspective on family, business, politics or even your own future? Do you have a perspective? Is your perspective based on your parents’ values or is it aligned with others’ thoughts and feelings? It’s something to really ponder here for a minute or two. Are you being authentically you in your everyday existence? Being authentic means you only act based on your own individual values and motivations. Sometimes being authentic means you may have a negative outlook rather than a positive one. But, is it really working for you and are you truly happy?

I hope these questions allow you to reflect on your personal perspective—to take a step back and try to be objective about your hopes and wishes. Do you sometimes judge others when you feel they are being a bit too bubbly or think of them as putting on a false front? Maybe their outlook is a more positive one and they are able to enjoy the simpler things that life offers. Maybe you wish you had a little bit of that?

The real truth is that you can have a better outlook. Try to find out what your true perspective is by writing down what you want to achieve in your life and don’t settle for less. A clear vision is much more powerful than a muddy or uncertain one.

If you are afraid or frustrated why you are unable to achieve your goals, make a concerted effort to find out why you are fearful and make an action plan to conquer your anxiety and lay the foundation for success.

Funny thing about your outlook/perspective — it needs to be flexible and adaptable. It mirrors your own life and it is the tone you set for your life. It is ultimately the design for your future. Please make it tailor made in your own image and with all the trimmings for your future happiness.

Yours in personal change and growth, Howard M. Cohen, Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern, 2312 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, 954-980-9628, [email protected], See ad page 55.

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