I ran across an article this week that made me angry. It basically made the case that people who are chronically late do so because they are optimistic. The tone of the article spins tardiness into a positive quality which made my blood boil. The more I thought about it though, I realized this article also gave me insight into why I arrive early to many places, and it wasn’t the reason I was expecting.
I’m usually pretty good at resisting articles with tempting headlines shared on Facebook, but I couldn’t resist this one: “Optimistic People All Have one Thing In Common: They’re Always Late.” The article makes the case that when people are late, it’s because they are optimistic that everything will go smoothly in their lives and they’ll be able to fit more activity into an allotted time than they really can.
My punctual side immediately screamed, “That’s not true! On time people are optimistic too! We’re just optimistic while also respecting other people’s time!” Then I thought more about this. When I’m deciding what time to leave my house for a meeting across town, I first check Google Maps for the estimated time, but then think, “What if I get stuck behind an accident?” “What if I can’t find parking?” “What if a street fair has closed a street?” “What if a dog runs out into the middle of traffic and I hit it and have to make sure I have enough time to help get it to a veterinarian?” (That last one is not a made up scenario for dramatic effect. These are actual thoughts that run through my head. Welcome to my life.)
In other words, I assume something will go wrong on my drive across town. One might say that’s being realistic. Another might say it’s being negative. I don’t think anyone would say it’s being optimistic.
Negative or Realistic?
So what is a “worst case scenario” person to do? Do we take a lesson from our tardy friends and go through life with an “everything will be great” type of attitude? I don’t think that’s necessarily the solution, but I personally am going to attempt to re-frame my negative thoughts in a positive light.
Instead of dwelling on all the things that could make me late, I will try to focus on the importance of respecting other people’s time, and using the extra minutes to fire off a few emails or read a few pages in a book should I arrive somewhere early. Does that make a huge difference? Maybe not, but I refuse to believe that being “realistic” requires negative thinking.
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