Do you view the coronavirus pandemic as a positive event or a negative event?
A speaker who I hold in high regard gave a talk in which he shared the importance of balancing optimism and pessimism.
As he described it, optimism/pessimism govern the way we see the world, ourselves, and events.
He explained that for any event we experience in our lives, we first assess whether the event is positive or negative.
Then we apply three filters to that event:
- How long will it last?
- Who is responsible for this event?
- How much of my life will this affect?
According to this model, how we answer these questions shows whether we are optimists or pessimists.
In a talk that was otherwise focused on how we transcend the current situation to move forward, this piece struck me as a step backward.
This model is rooted in the limiting belief of duality: that an event is either positive or negative.
What if it’s neither?
An Equanimity Model
Even judging something as positive is a judgment.
The speaker shared that a hallmark of pessimists is that they believe a negative event will be permanent. But it can be just as much of a problem to believe that a “positive” situation will be permanent, because that can lead to complacency.
One of the deepest flaws of leadership is not challenging the status quo in good times, which often leaves industries unprepared for challenges. When the market is booming, you think it’s going to boom forever, and you become blind to the potential risks in your model.
Instead, we can realize that everything is temporary, including the “good.”
We can also refrain from assigning a meaning to an event beyond what it is. We don’t know whether an event is positive or negative because we can’t see the bigger picture.
What looks like a “positive” event today could, in the big picture, turn out to be negative. And what looks like a “negative” event today could, in the big picture, be our biggest gift.
The point is that we don’t know. It’s not our plan and we’re not in control.
Finding Meaning in the Message
Acknowledging that we don’t know, and accepting the impermanence of every situation, allows us to release our attachment to the meaning of any event.
Instead of asking ourselves if an event is positive or negative, we can seek meaning by asking what this event is here to teach us. What is the message for us to learn at this time through this experience?