‘To be or not to be’ should not be the question

As a rule, I don’t like definitions. It isn’t really that I don’t like them, it’s that I don’t find them very helpful. Their purpose seems to be to divide and conquer. In their assumption of an ‘other’, they trap us in unhelpful, unproductive, ‘either or’ thinking.

Take the glass half-full or half-empty scenario. The presumption is that we are one or the other – an optimist or a pessimist. A Pollyanna or a worry wart. Granted, we might have a tendency towards one over the other, but how many of us would identify as one or the other all the time? While I spend most of my time nearer the rose-coloured end of the spectrum, I must also claim realist, idealist, defeatist and cynic as part of my attitudinal repertoire.

A little while back, the QIMR reported that a strongly pessimistic outlook has been linked to lower life expectancy. So, I wondered, before I delved into the article, was I going to be rewarded for my most-of-the-time positivity or would my flirtation with the full optimism-pessimism continuum impinge on my twilight years.

Neither of the above, as it turns out. No punishment for my bouts of cynicism, but equally no upside for being upbeat. Anyone that considers themselves to be ‘strongly pessimistic’ should be worried though, as they are likely to die two years earlier (on average) than their sunny side up counterparts.

I’m thinking this isn’t as devastating as it seems though, because if someone identifies as strongly pessimistic, by definition they already take a dim view of pretty much everything, so a shorter life expectancy will only serve to confirm what they already suspected – the world is full of bad outcomes!

And there we are again. The curse of the definition. If you are ‘this’, then ‘that’ must also be true.

Don’t let any definitions define who you are this week.

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