Are you a realist? 9 signs you have a pragmatic and grounded personality

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Being a realist often gets a bad rap, especially when compared to idealists, dreamers, or the overly optimistic.  

It can sometimes make you stick out like a sore thumb. You might even be called “pessimistic” or a Debbie Downer. 

But you know what? Being pragmatic and grounded isn’t the same as being negative. It just means you really understand and accept the reality of situations. 

You don’t have any rose-colored glasses on, so you can see things for what they truly are. In a world full of unrealistic expectations and subsequent disappointments, that ability has real value. 

We all need someone like you, who shows these 9 clear signs: 

1) You set realistic goals 

I’ll begin by admitting that when I was younger, I was an idealist, as most people in their 20s are. 

I had such lofty goals – write a bestselling book by age 25, travel around the globe, change the world, be the next Oprah Winfrey…

And crack the secret to happiness while I was at it.

When people would say, “You’re such an idealist!”, I’d retort, “Well, if I didn’t have any ideals, what would I be striving for?”

To a certain extent, I was right. Ideals are there to guide us and provide us with direction. 

But what I was missing was a strong dose of reality. Or even just the thought that I might not hit those goals in the time frames I had in mind. 

Well, life sure woke me up eventually. It was a hard truth to swallow that my goals were just too impractical. More so because I wasn’t even clear on the steps I had to take to achieve them.

So now, I make sure to set realistic goals that have a better chance of succeeding. That way, I don’t set myself up for extreme disappointment and I can bounce back faster. 

2) You weigh the pros and cons

Another sign you have a pragmatic and grounded personality is if you carefully assess all angles of a situation. 

The pros and cons. Risks and rewards. 

Since I started being more analytical, people would say I’m being too negative (there really is no pleasing people, is there?). 

But really, I don’t mean to be. It’s not that I’m too scared or anxious or that I expect the worst. 

I’ve just been around the block long enough to know that an informed decision is the best kind of decision. 

It may not always be 100% right but it’s certainly better than diving in without knowing the potential pitfalls and getting crushed in the process. 

3) You base decisions on facts, not feelings

Part of making informed decisions is basing them on facts, not on how you feel. 

How many times have you made a big decision out of emotion, like anger or over-excitement? Only to regret it when the clouds have cleared and you can see better?

Research shows that “emotions constitute potent, pervasive, predictable, sometimes harmful and sometimes beneficial drivers of decision making.”

I’m not saying you should completely discount emotions as you make decisions. As you can see from the statement above, it is sometimes a beneficial driver of decision making. 

And ultimately, we do have to feel at peace with our decisions. 

But it does pay to be more balanced, more even-keeled when trying to make a difficult decision. 

Here’s a simple example: I used to be a shoe addict. Whenever I came across a pair that spoke to me, I’d buy them immediately, never mind if they would put me in debt. 

In an effort to stop that nasty habit, I adopted the 3-day rule – I’d wait three days before buying the shoes, and if I still wanted them after that, then I’d go back and purchase them. 

More often than not, that intense feeling of “I’ve gotta have it!” wanes through the waiting period, helping to curb my impulse spending. 

Isn’t that more pragmatic? More grounded (in the fact that my bank account only held so much)? You bet! 

4) You aren’t easily swayed by hype

Because you base decisions on facts, you’re also not the type to get swept up in hype. 

You won’t jump on the Taylor Swift bandwagon just because her songs are topping the charts. 

Instead, you’ll listen to her music first and decide for yourself whether it resonates with your taste. 

Essentially, you’re all about authenticity. You think about things like: 

  • Does it have real value for you?
  • Is it the real deal or just a passing trend?
  • Does it align with your principles and beliefs?
  • Is it something you’d enjoy or benefit from in the long run?
  • Are you considering it because of its intrinsic worth or merely because of external pressures?

It’s not that you’re being contrary for the sake of contrariness. The thing about pragmatic and grounded people like you is that you look at VALUE. 

So you prefer to discern what’s truly important and what’s plain and simple noise. 

5) People often go to you for advice

That level-headedness of yours is precisely why you often find yourself in the position of advisor or counselor. 

People come to you because they rely on your objective and grounded point of view to tell them what they’re missing or not seeing. 

I know that when I need to get out of my own head, I have my own go-to folks – the realists in my circle – to give me some much-needed perspective.

6) Overthinking isn’t in your vocabulary

As much as I’m trying to be as pragmatic and grounded as possible, I still do struggle at times with overthinking. 

I won’t go into the details of all that. But suffice it to say that, as I mentioned earlier, when I need to get out of my own head, I consult my husband (one of my go-to folks and an A+ realist). 

Because, being the super pragmatic person that he is, he doesn’t suffer from overthinking like I do. He doesn’t lie awake at nights going over situations and thinking up countless what-if scenarios. 

A huge part of why he doesn’t overthink is because he does this next thing…

7) You recognize your own limitations and other people’s

The idealist would often stretch themselves too thin, believing they can conquer all challenges without help. What’s more, they’d also expect others to do the same. 

In contrast, your realistic perspective helps you understand that everyone – including yourself – has strengths and weaknesses. 

No one is infallible. Mistakes are mistakes, and the wise thing to do would be to learn from them. 

Since you’re attuned to reality, you don’t dwell so much on the should’ves and shouldn’t haves of matters. In fact…

8) You often say, “It is what it is”

This is a phrase that would be unacceptable for the overly optimistic or the perpetual dreamer. 

You know why? Because it means accepting things as they are, which, for these types of people, might seem like giving up or admitting defeat. 

They’re like, “No, there must be something else we could do!”

For the realist, though, it’s quite common to say “It is what it is.” You may even have used it yourself. 

Which means that you’ve got a pretty good grasp of what you can and can’t control. 

For you, it’s just a waste of energy to rail against the futility of situations. It’s energy that you could better use somewhere else. 

In fact, “It is what it is” offers you some measure of comfort and helps you be at peace with an unpleasant turn of events. 

9) Hard truths are easy to accept for you

That’s right, while the less grounded might be full of angst and disappointment over some of life’s harsh truths, you’re more stoic about it. 

No sugarcoating. No denial. No false hopes. It is what it is.

Facing the realities of life head-on is more productive than evading them. And remember, for pragmatic people like you, value is king. 

So, why spend time and energy on the frivolity of illusions? 

Final thoughts

Now, don’t get me wrong. I may have painted a not-so-rosy picture of idealism here, but that’s not the case at all. I merely want to point out that idealism without pragmatism is meaningless, as is pragmatism without idealism. 

As Bono once said, “Idealism detached from action is just a dream. But idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting. It’s very real. It’s very strong.”

So, keep your ideals, but pair them with concrete actions. Be hopeful but don’t rely on hope as a strategy. 

That’s the best way to achieve your goals and keep your feet firmly on the ground. 

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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