When we think of cynicism or pessimism, we tend to associate them with negativity and an unwillingness to drive oneself to fulfill their goals. After all, the motivation to make one’s vision come to fruition oftentimes comes from a sense of optimism that drives a person towards meeting their goals with the belief that the best will come out from their efforts.
As many of us say when faced with negative or cynical thoughts: to be damned with anyone who rains on our parade!
Yet, it is undeniable that blind optimism can lead to recklessness which eventually leads us to stumble without a proper contingency plan – simply because we chose not to consider the worst possible outcomes which could have happened.
Are negative thoughts necessarily a good thing? Simply put, not by themselves. However, it is certainly a powerful tool when conceptualizing a plan to meet your goals. Living in 2020, with the ever pervasive COVID-19 and the uncertainties surrounding the US elections, it is difficult to want to entertain negative thoughts when we’re already surrounded by so much negativity and pessimism. But hear me out because being cynical is not only useful, it may be key for getting you where you want to be (when harnessed productively).
The Positivity in Negativity
Since 1985, plane crashes as a result of turbulence have very rarely occurred. In fact, most people are safer when traveling by plane rather than motor vehicles. Why is that the case?
For years, engineers and safety personnel have exercised extreme caution and used painstaking cynicism to conceive all possible scenarios that may occur during a flight, whether this may be poor weather or just faulty technological designs. Science, after all, requires that constant testing be undertaken before a certain concept or theory is accepted as fact. Within the context of air travel, the weight put on worst case scenarios has led the odds of plane crashes to be one in a million – much lower than being struck by lightning which has a one in five hundred chance of happening.
It is important to consider that plans may go wrong and that you might want to start planning accordingly. Too many people don’t or refuse to consider the possibility of mishaps taking place and the effects they could have on you or your venture. A recent example of such thinking can be seen in how Europe and the United States dealt with the COVID-19, with many countries and states refusing to take action until the spread of the virus became too difficult to stop. Now, businesses are failing, people are losing jobs, and more are getting sick. Clearly, innovation needs to be implemented faster than ever, and it is truly sad that it took a pandemic to drive what was traditionally a CEO or COO’s role in spurring innovation.
While it may seem counterintuitive at first, we should definitely spend more time thinking about the prospect of failure. Humans in general tend to – perhaps excessively – live off of optimism. Who can blame them when it is optimism that pushes people to take risks? Taken to the extreme, cynicism would mean that one will ever get married, have a baby or even consider starting a business due to an obsession with failure and what could go wrong.
Caution Is Key… but Not the Whole Story
However, it may also be tempting to overthink everything that could possibly go wrong. But as I mentioned earlier, cynicism must be used in such a way that is productive in order to drive towards the best results because having too many contingency plans may lead to indecisiveness which wouldn’t amount to anything. For example, listing all the reasons why you should avoid setting up a particular business will simply lead you nowhere and constantly returning to the drawing board.
So how can we make the best of cynical thinking? We can start by coming up with contingency plans to overcome the likelihood of mishaps from happening. Likewise, we should be able to learn quickly from our miscalculations in order to prevent them from happening again and improve ourselves for the next time we choose to retry going through our goals. For example, when launching a new product for your business, you might want to think of all the ways it could fail and create plans around those; however, be sure not to overcomplicate things or take too much precaution from yourself or others to prevent yourself from overthinking how you want to get it done.
As Gary Vaynerchuck says: ‘Perfection is the disguise for insecurity’.
To cap things off, I’d like to say that the positive thing about planning for the worst is that you might turn away from projects that are doomed to fail from the start. We all have our opinions on the upcoming current global events or even stuck in situations we’re dying to get out from.. A lot of heartache and disappointment can be avoided this way.