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The Power of Positivity (Rather than Optimism)

In reflecting on my attitude, I have come to realize how much I rely on the power of positivity rather than the assumption of optimism. On the 5 month anniversary of my last run and 3 weeks before the Boston Marathon, in which I was supposed to run, I am taking a look at my outlook on life.

Thank you all so much for the good juju regarding my back/hip/sacro-iliac joint from yesterday’s post.. I think I was dealing with some acute ligament inflammation/strain, but the past few days of resting seems (?) to have helped. Not 100%, but definitely better. 

The Boston Marathon Runners Passport packet, which I will not get to use this year.

Still, a bit of a slap in the face to get this letter and watch as everyone else opened theirs on Instagram. Mine is still unopened. But I’m at peace with the matter. It is obvious that I am not going to be running Boston this year. I might not be running it next year. But that is another discussion for another day.

The Power of Positivity

The Power of Positivity. In my mind, positivity is so much stronger and more empowering than optimism, which relies on the assumption of everything going right. Join the discussion at @suzlyfe

In reading the comments yesterday, I was again struck by how many of you see me as a β€œpositive” person. I would definitely agree with that label. A long, long longlonglonglong time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote a post in which I ruminated on whether or not I was a closet optimist, and I thought that it might be timely and germane to bring the discussion back to the front.

So let’s break, break, break it down, as you know I am fond of saying:

Positivity vs Optimism

Positivity: The Quality or State of Being Positive (thank you, Merriam Webster, for that fine forensic analysis (NAME THAT MOVIE))

Positive:  (one definition of many) thinking that a good result will happen : hopeful or optimistic

Optimism: a feeling or belief that good things will happen in the future : a feeling or belief that what you hope for will happen

(all definitions from Merriam Webster)

Ok, so those are the definitions of positivity and optimism per MW, but what about in real life?

Positivity vs Optimism (Suz Version)

Positivity: the quality or state of being hopeful, at peace, or happy with life; an outlook that focuses on the other aspects of life than the negative

The Power of Positivity.

In my mind, positivity is so much stronger and more empowering than optimism, which relies on the assumption of everything going right. Join the discussion at @suzlyfe: assuming and believing without doubt that the “best” outcome will occur.

In other words: one can be positive without being an optimist, and thus one can have positivity without optimism. And I think that perspective plays a huge part in this. I also think that positivity, like happiness, is a state of mind, while optimism is more a state of being. Sort of like your sexual orientation: with optimism, you are just kind of born that way.

I am a positive person, but I am not what I would consider to be an optimist. I do not believe that it will “all work out” in the end. However, I have positivity via my perspective that I am where I am, and all that I can control is my reaction to the situations in which I am placed. I guess you could say that I have positive pragmatism. And pragmatic positivity.


I have to believe that I will get better, that America isn’t going to go down in flames with this Presidential election, that I will have a family. Because otherwise I don’t think that I could go on. But notice what I said: I have to believe. In my mind, an optimist would believe without question that things will work out. 

Ultimately, I think that the point of this post is to say I do agree with you: by and large, I have a great degree of positivity in my outlook and persona. It is that positivity that empowers me because I am making the choice to be positive about the future. If I just believed that things would work out, perhaps I wouldn’t work so hard, I wouldn’t fight with every fiber of my being. I might not have anxiety attacks, or question everything that I know about myself in certain moments. 

But that questioning, that wondering if I really am making the right choice, is exactly what is the power of positivity: because every time I wonder if I can and I make the choice to try, I am getting so much farther with my positivity than I ever could with optimism.

That is the power of positivity: the decision is in your hands. You fight your fight.

Get Empowered by positivity: why @suzlyfe chooses it over optimism #motivation #sweatpink Click To Tweet

What is your take?

How do you see the let downs of life?

Linking up with Amanda

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  • Reply Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    I guess positivity means different things to different people. I try to be a positive person, but I think it’s important to give yourself time to not be positive sometimes too.

    March 29, 2016 at 5:14 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I agree–there is a reason to question things at times.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:55 am
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    You know I needed this! I especially like what you said about there being power in questioning your path. I’m going to remember that!

    March 29, 2016 at 6:20 am
  • Reply Alicia

    I am working on being a more positive person and I definitely have gotten better over the last 2 years. I really like your definition of positivity.

    March 29, 2016 at 6:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I am glad that you are! I think yoga helps a tone with that.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:52 am
  • Reply

    Oh this would be a HUGE discussion between you and I, if we were face to face! But as it’s not (yet) I will say that I try as hard as I can to be a positive person, and when I feel myself becoming negative, I need to work on turning that around. It’s taken me a long time. But I’m definitely in a better, more positive thinking place than I was! It wasn’t the must positive upbringing I had…..not a bad upbringing, but let’s just say there was a major negative influence there……. I still have to deal with it. But I now know how to deal with it. If that makes sense?

    March 29, 2016 at 7:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So I think that you need work on seeing the positive and choosing the positive. That can happen overtime. Like learning to like certain foods, lol. I understand you.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:55 am
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    I agree with this so much. I remember coming back after my sinus surgery (which took exponentially longer than expected) and writing a post about optimism failing me. I think this is what I really meant to say. I am positive, but realistic too. Sometimes blind optimism, especially when facing HARD things without a certain outcome, can almost be harmful. But being positive will always help.

    March 29, 2016 at 7:09 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think sometimes you need blind optimism to protect yourself. It can be strategically used. But I don’t think it is the best for the entirety of life.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:53 am
  • Reply Annmarie

    I am right there with you…I tend to be positive but not exactly an optimist.

    March 29, 2016 at 7:15 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thus why we get along

      March 29, 2016 at 9:51 am
  • Reply Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment

    There are times in our lives that are particularly difficult, and it is hard to see the glass a “half full”. I agree with you. Being positive is a process that we must work on each day. Perhaps optimism is a state of mind that is part of your personality. I know for me it is easy to slip into negativity when things are really hard, but I try to keep positive and remind myself that things will work out one way or another. Although maybe not exactly as I had hoped. We have no control over what as happened or what will happened so we must keep focused on today.

    March 29, 2016 at 7:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I wholeheartedly agree.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:51 am
  • Reply Emily @ My Healthyish Life

    I’ve actually never looked at positivity and optimism as different so this was really interesting and eye-opening (and I think you’re right!). I think it’s much harder to make the choice to be positive, rather than having the natural inclination of optimism (which I do not have). My mom has always told me that happiness is a choice, and I’m slowly learning that I have it in my power to make the best of a situation.

    March 29, 2016 at 7:27 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think that is a huge part of maturity.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:51 am
  • Reply Bri

    They way I see it, why worry about things you can’t control? It’s a choice we can make – to deal with things as they come and be positive in the moment or be constantly stressed/worried about what may or may not happen. I know I’d rather spend my life blissfully unaware, even though it’s hard to do that sometimes!

    March 29, 2016 at 7:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Amen to every part of that!

      March 29, 2016 at 9:49 am
  • Reply Sulfyfe's mommy, Clare

    Question #1. Titanic

    Ill go back and read this in more detail when I get off of I -20…….

    March 29, 2016 at 7:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I knew you would know immediately πŸ˜€

      March 29, 2016 at 9:46 am
  • Reply Anna @ Piper's Run

    Being positive can take you places that optimism can’t.

    March 29, 2016 at 8:12 am
  • Reply Ellie

    I guess I still see being optimistic as being positive and vice versa. So I think since they go hand in hand, there is no reason not to be both. I think you have to make the choice to be optimistic just as you make the choice to be positive. I think rather than not being optimistic, I’d rather be both positive and optimistic πŸ™‚

    March 29, 2016 at 8:24 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That works for me!

      March 29, 2016 at 9:46 am
  • Reply Kat

    Totally see the differenece between optimism and positivity here. I used to think they went hand in hand, and maybe to some extent they do, but I love how you differentiated the two. Being positive totally has so many more upsides than optimism and I think one of those is the fact that you will actually DO something instead of just thinking about it.

    March 29, 2016 at 8:37 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Sort of like knowing that you can and working so that you can. The positives in life aren’t givens.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:47 am
  • Reply Catherine @ foodiecology

    I literally was thinking about optimism vs mindfully choosing to be positive yesterday, but I still wasn’t quite sure how they were different. Your post makes so much sense! I think I am often the same way. In fact, I wouldn’t really label myself an optimist OR a pessimist, but I definitely put a lot of effort into being positive about things that happen (either by chance or by my own decisions). I’ll freak out initially and have a “woe is me” party, but then I’ll look at the situation, find something with which to be grateful, and go from there.
    Great post, Suzie!

    March 29, 2016 at 8:39 am
  • Reply Danielle @ The T-Rex Runner

    I actually don’t think I’m a positive or optimistic person for the most part. I tend to think pretty negatively but I try not to project that onto people around me. I find that when I think positively or optimistically (honestly, it’s hard for me to separate those two things, but that doesn’t really matter), I don’t tend to work as hard towards achieving the outcome I want. Thus, if I’m in a situation that I do largely have control over, I tend to think negatively about the outcome so as to push myself to achieve my goal. By contrast, if I’m in a situation where I don’t really have control (let’s say, like a company merger or selling my house quickly or whatever), then I do think positively, because otherwise I drive myself nuts. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but anyway, those are my ramblings for the day! I’m glad you’re feeling better and I hope the new job is going well!

    March 29, 2016 at 8:44 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think those are excellent points. Sometimes, we just have to believe that the good is coming, or at least that you will be able to move forward regardless.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:45 am
  • Reply Rae

    I’ve never really thought about the difference between positivity and optimism before, but I think you’re definitely right in that they’re not the same thing. I think I’m with you, in that I try to remain positive without always having the optimism to just trust that everything will work out ok in the end.

    March 29, 2016 at 9:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And that is why you work so hard–to earn it.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:43 am
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    I’m a optimistic and postivite person, optimistic by personality and positive by how I’ve shaped my outlook and responses. You keep fighting the good fight, Susie!

    March 29, 2016 at 9:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I like how you have taken control of your optimism–it isn’t just something you accept–you empower your own optimism with your positivity!

      March 29, 2016 at 9:43 am
  • Reply Suzy

    Brilliant! I am a highly emotional person and have let emotions dictate and control way too much of my life. I’ve come to realize that a feeling is not a truth; it’s just a feeling. I could hear someone’s keys jingle behind me on the sidewalk, assume that there’s a pitbull chasing me and I could get really scared and react. But just because I’m really scared doesn’t mean there’s a pitbull behind me.

    Optimism is a feeling. Positivity is a choice.

    March 29, 2016 at 9:35 am
  • Reply Sarah @ Sweet Miles

    This was an interesting read for me. I tend to go back and forth on being optimistic and positive, and just realistic. My husband is SUCH a realist, and I try to be optimistic, though I’m not always the most positive. If that even makes sense. I think a large part of being optimistic too revolves around my faith, and just trusting in a greater power that everything will work out for the best.

    March 29, 2016 at 9:37 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Well, this was super interesting for me! My husband is much more optimistic than I, and I am very realistic. So kind of a swap in situation. And that is great that you have your faith, and I am sure that it plays a huge role in your life.

      March 29, 2016 at 9:41 am
  • Reply Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday

    I agree! And for me, it’s much easier to be around positive people (I’m also one) than pure optimists. If you’re telling me everything is going to work out (optimist), I just want to know HOW and also why. It feels way too passive, and for some people, things don’t work out beautifully. I think positivity implies an underlying action plan. You actually have to make the choice to think positively and then DO something to make the best of your situation.

    March 29, 2016 at 9:38 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Totally agree. And choice is so empowering!

      March 29, 2016 at 9:39 am
  • Reply Tiffany @ The Chi-Athlete

    Ah. Perfection, my friend. I adore this post, and your views on all that has been lumped onto your plate + a helping of seconds + a helping of thirds. I believe that I am an optimistic person, but more pessimistic at the moment something happens. My go-to plan is to freak out first (it might last a few seconds or a few hours) and then realize that it’ll all be okay. *le headtilt*

    P.S. I’m ready for a Suz hug.

    March 29, 2016 at 10:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I understand your distinction–optimist and then pessimist in certain moments. I can be like that as well.

      March 30, 2016 at 9:28 am
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    Yeah girl, get it. I always love new spins on things.

    March 29, 2016 at 11:02 am
  • Reply Emily

    YES, it’s so true that the more I learn that I can rejoice in the Lord, no matter what happens, even if things don’t go right, the more life is actually much more joyful, even if it’s hard. I love how you contrasted them. It keeps life real, not just head stuck in the clouds, but hopeful too.

    March 29, 2016 at 11:44 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I love that you have faith and trust as well as perspective! So important.

      March 30, 2016 at 9:30 am
  • Reply GiGi Eats

    I have to say, I am a VERY positive person. VERY. And… I think it rubs off on everyone I know, which is great – because as you note, positivity is empowering! πŸ™‚

    Sure I am optimistic too, but POSITIVE first! I used to be super negative though if you can believe it – I blame my mom! LOL!

    March 29, 2016 at 11:56 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Parental issues. We all have them πŸ˜€

      March 30, 2016 at 9:30 am
  • Reply Helly

    Very interesting and I agree. Positivity seems to me to be a choice whereas optimism like you said, is just expecting things to be okay with no real action on your part. Great post Suz, and I admire your strength β™‘

    March 29, 2016 at 12:01 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thanks, Helly–takes one to know one πŸ˜€

      March 30, 2016 at 9:31 am
  • Reply Ange @ Cowgirl Runs

    I’m far more a cynic than I am an optimist, but I’m most definitely a positive person.
    I think differentiating between “positivity” and “optimism” is a really good distinction.

    March 29, 2016 at 12:06 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think we are very similar in that regard–that we know bad things can happen, but we choose when to be positive.

      March 30, 2016 at 9:32 am
  • Reply Sarah

    What a thought provoking post! I always considered myself an optimist, but I think I am more positive than optimistic. I believe everything will work out in my life, but not by me sitting and doing nothing to make it that way. I believe that if I work for my goals and am realistic about how to achieve them then my life is full of amazing possibilities.

    March 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is exactly what I mean, and I know that mindset will serve you so well!

      March 30, 2016 at 9:33 am
  • Reply Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

    Hmmm that’s one to think about! I think I’m more of an optimist because things do eventually “work out” in some way even if it’s not what you though. I’m NOT positive on a day-to-day basis but that kind of goes along the lines of being a realist.

    March 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Like a realist optimist.

      March 30, 2016 at 9:33 am
  • Reply MartinaNYC

    This is such an interesting perspective! I would love to consider myself a person who is positive 100% of the times but, truth is, I have a type A personality, which makes my positiviy very fragile. It’s always all flowers and rainbows for me as long as things go the way I planned them to go (NOT the way I wish for them to go -optimism-, just the way I planned for them to go -type A-). Optimism would be that, no matter how things will go, all will be ok. Positivity is that, no matter how things will go, I’ll adapt and overcome. Martina-type A personality: as long as things will go the way I planned for them to go, all will be ok πŸ˜› That’s why I admire you SO much: talk about things NOT going the way you planned for them to go… My heart breaks for you girl, it really does. They way you’re handling this though… I wished I had just 1/4 of your strenght!

    March 29, 2016 at 1:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You are too sweet. It isn’t easy, but I’m making it work. I don’t have another option, honestly. I think that you make a very interesting point–that some of us are happy unicorns until the shoe drops. I guess the next step is how can you make sure that the unicorns continue to appear, so that you never have to drop the shoe?

      March 30, 2016 at 9:37 am
  • Reply Amanda Nyx

    Okay first – Titanic. Of course.

    Second – YES. Choose positivity. Take the active role instead of letting passive optimism try to run its course. It isn’t always the easy route but it is soooo much more satisfying when everything ends up awesome because you chose to make it so. Learning this lesson more deeply every day!

    March 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And I know you have had to learn to be stronger than most, but you have blossomed by learning your own strength πŸ˜€

      March 30, 2016 at 9:34 am
  • Reply Courtney @ Running For Cupcakes

    Love everything you said! I definitely think I am a positive person and an optimist. I like to see the good in everything and I believe that everything will work out in the end, which some people might see as being naive, but I have to disagree! I can be serious and a realist when need be.

    March 29, 2016 at 2:43 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Having that perspective and not blind faith is so important!

      March 30, 2016 at 9:34 am
  • Reply Don

    Hey Suz! I’ve been there too, it’s a real kick in the gut to get the registration reminder for a race you know you can’t run, especially a race that you worked so hard far last year.

    At the risk of sounding trite, I’m confident you’ll get another chance to run Boston and it will mean that much more to you when you do.

    March 29, 2016 at 4:06 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I totally agree with you–maybe we’ll run it together (will our full time jobs that we both love!). #goals

      March 30, 2016 at 9:26 am
  • Reply Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor

    Interesting post! I agree with you in the distinction that positivity is present-focused and optimism is future-focused. However, I do think that optimism is a choice and it not always just a passive state of being. I think people often times can and do choose to believe that things will work out in the end and that it can be selectively applied, and that it’s not always just a passive personality trait of believing it without thinking.

    I like to think I’m positive for the most part, but I have my moments. I wish I could say I were one of those people who has the the “adjust the sails” mindset of “welp, can’t do anything about this, it’s outta my hands so it is what it is and I guess I’ll just be content with it!” Too often easier said than done, in my experience. It is hard to be okay with unfairness, as juvenile as that sounds.

    I’m so sorry about Boston. πŸ™

    March 29, 2016 at 4:12 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I respect your opinion, and I am glad that you raised the argument! Also, I love that you made that distinction of present- versus future-focus. That is getting me thinking πŸ˜€

      March 30, 2016 at 9:27 am
  • Reply Kristy @ Southern In Law

    Funnily enough, Jesse and I always say that I’m a “positimist” as in, positive optimist. Whilst I am all about focusing on the best part of every situation, my head isn’t in the clouds and I know that everything isn’t always picture perfect.

    Sometimes you hit a bump in the road. Sometimes it’s a little bump that you don’t really notice, other times it’s a freaking iceberg sized titanic and Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t around to rescue you – but you’re still alive so that’s still a win πŸ˜›

    Hugs to you, beautiful! You are SO much stronger than you even know! <3 xo

    March 29, 2016 at 5:41 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you! And I LOVE that: a positimist! Trademark that!

      March 30, 2016 at 9:24 am
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I definitely don’t think I am an optimist, but I do try to stay positive as much as possible. I am more of a realist, and always analyzing facts before coming to a conclusion. It is definitely helpful to have a positive outlook! We all need hope, otherwise, what’s the point of most things?

    March 29, 2016 at 6:15 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We are of the same mind.

      March 30, 2016 at 9:25 am
  • Reply lacey@fairytalesandfitness

    Oh man, that stinks you had to get that in the mail. I can see where that would be a major bummer. But you do always keep your head up. I try to be positive too, but I admit I’m the one that says everything will work out. I guess I think this way so I don’t keep negative thoughts.

    March 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I guess my question is : do you say that everything will work out to convince yourself, or do you inherently believe that it will?

      March 30, 2016 at 9:23 am
  • Reply Jill

    Although the linguistics here were kind of a mind bender for me I never considered the difference between the two terms until you pointed it out! I think I tend to try to be an optimist hoping things will ‘all work out’ but I often don’t take ownership of the outcome and think it’s fate or beyond my control. I am conscious if this and trying to be more proactive but ingrained thought patterns are sometimes hard to break! If only I could be more positive and proactive like you Susie πŸ™‚

    March 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, it has taken me a LOOOONG time to get to this point. And that doesn’t mean I am always on top of it!

      March 30, 2016 at 9:20 am
  • Reply Kristen

    I love this post! I never thought about the distinction, but you’re totally right about that. I’m sorry to hear you had a setback, but I’m hoping it’s just a tiny one and that you’ll keep moving forward from here!

    March 29, 2016 at 10:58 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Seem to be moving forward again, thanks!

      March 30, 2016 at 9:19 am
  • Reply Michelle

    Sending big hugs my friend. I think it’s all about balance. You’ve gotta have those bad moments to appreciate the good ones even more! xo

    March 30, 2016 at 10:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      For certain–I know that you understand that!

      April 2, 2016 at 11:30 am
  • Reply Cora

    I really like this, Suz. Reminds me of my questions about “fatalism.” I think there is such a greater strength found when you accept that not everything WILL turn out as you had hoped/planned, but that it is then up to you to make of it what you can and see the positive in any situation. I’d rather this by this mantra than to (dare I say) naively believe things will always be fine. Thank you.

    March 31, 2016 at 12:09 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Totally. I think that one of the greatest mistakes in life is to blindly accept anything. Period!

      April 2, 2016 at 11:31 am
  • Reply Amber

    Suz, I couldn’t agree MORE with this post – i like the whole “adjusting the sails” aspect. being a positive person does NOT mean you are always happy, but you are always looking to the brighter side of things – or having hope or strength, thisis something i’ve been embodying a lot lately – people say “how are you so happy all the time?” and the truth is, I’m not, I cry, I get frustrated, anxious, mad, etc, BUT i pick myself up, I push forward, I am POSITIVE <3 ps. my comment luv isn't working #obnoxious

    April 2, 2016 at 6:05 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I am the same way–I just try not to let the others see me cry. Alex, on the other hand, sees all my ugly.

      April 2, 2016 at 11:32 am
  • Reply Jess @hellotofit

    Girl, you are making me think! I love it. I agree with you, while at first I was like “Wut?” I think optimism is more of something you’re born with/like, and we can CHOOSE to be positive.

    April 3, 2016 at 8:51 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is what I am thinking!

      April 3, 2016 at 8:52 am
  • Reply Farrah

    I definitely vote positivity over optimism as well–I definitely like to focus on the good as well. I’m also desperatel hoping that America doesn’t go down in flames either. Gotta hold on to that hope!!

    April 3, 2016 at 11:23 pm
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