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Pessimism gets a bad rap, but in reality the negative outlook can serve some important functions. This includes everything from helps us deal with angerto start a new relationship with realistic expectationsto set us up reach our goals. And according to performance experts Steven Kotler-Author of The art of the impossible and founder and managing director of Flow Research Collective– As we get older, we become more pessimistic.
In a recent discussion on the Mindbodygreen PodcastKotler explains why this isn’t always bad, noting that our increasing pessimism as we age is more of a gradual shift from a “goal mindset” to a “fear mindset”.
“Everything we see and encounter is really shaped by two things: our fears or our goals,” he said says in the podcast. Here’s why this happens and how we can control our age-related pessimism.
Why do we become more pessimistic as we age?
There’s a reason most people move from a goal mindset to a fear mindset. Kotler explains. This is because as we age, the stakes increase for any decision we have to make – be it because we have to consider a partner, family commitments, or a career. As a result, safety can be more important than setting or achieving goals.
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There is Research to support thisThis shows that older adults are more risk averse than younger ones. That’s not a bad thing, of course, and Kotler notes that it makes sense because “the things that are important to you start to grow.” However, this isn’t the only result of mounting pessimism as you age: it can also lead you to a point where fear of failure will make you stop fully achieving life goals.
How to keep our pessimism in check as we get older
While it makes sense to make decisions based on the perceived, potential, or actual risk of something, Kotler sees this as a problem when it comes to a point where we no longer set goals at all. This can happen when someone reaches some or all of arbitrary social milestones, such as getting married, having a family, buying a house, and so on. Here is as Kotler puts it::
“We hit our early thresholds and stopped setting goals. As a result, the system is, “Well, when you run out of goals, I want to protect you and help you survive.”
Fortunately, there is a way around this: keep setting yourself long-term goals. Setting daily goals is a good idea, but to get a grip on that particular aspect of pessimism, Kotler says that make concrete and specific plans To help you achieve a realistic long-term goal, you can balance your need with security and ambition.