What Is Optimism? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Optimism Defined
  • 1:18 Pessimism
  • 1:55 Advantages of Optimism
  • 2:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Optimism is a form of positive thinking that includes the belief that you are responsible for your own happiness and that more good things will continue to happen to you in the future. Learn more about optimism, how it differs from pessimism, and more.

Optimism Defined

Ever heard the expression 'the glass is half full?' It usually refers to how optimistic people see the world. But, what does it mean?

Imagine that you are at a restaurant with a friend when the waitress brings out your drinks. You and your friend both notice that the waitress only filled your cups of soda halfway. Your friend is visibly upset and states that the cups are half empty and don't contain enough soda. You tell her that she is wrong, the cups are actually half full and contain enough soda to last for at least the first portion of your meal. Your response is to look on the positive side of the situation and is an example of optimism.

Optimism is a form of positive thinking that includes the belief that you are responsible for your own happiness, and that more good things than bad will continue to happen to you. Optimists believe that bad or negative events are rare occurrences and that it is not their fault when something bad happens but is due to something external.

For example, an optimistic female who is dumped by her boyfriend does not blame herself, but instead may believe that the relationship just wasn't meant to be. People who are optimists tend to focus on the positive side of things rather than the negative. The opposite of optimism is known as pessimism.


In the previous example, your friend's response at the restaurant is one of pessimism. Pessimism is a form of negative thinking that includes the belief that bad things (like half empty soda glasses) will continue to happen to you throughout your life. Pessimists also believe that when bad things happen, it is through their own fault. For example, a pessimistic female that is dumped by her boyfriend blames herself for the breakup. Pessimists also believe that when something good occurs, it is an isolated event that is outside of their control. If the pessimistic female and her boyfriend decide to reconcile, she might believe it is because the boyfriend feels sorry for her.

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