11 ways to know if you’re an optimist, even in tough times

Optimism can keep you alive and kicking long after most would have given up.

Here’s how to know if you’re an optimist even when the road gets rocky.

If you do any of these things, you’re a true optimist at heart.

1) You find silver linings

The first of the ways to know if you’re an optimist, even in tough times is that you find silver linings whenever possible. 

If the sky is full of rain, you reflect on how good this is for farmers and the crops. 

If it’s hot as a furnace, you think about how cold you felt last winter and you’re full of gratitude. 

You are able to admit when a situation is awful, because you’re not a perpetual optimist who keeps smiling no matter what. 

You have your down days and your down weeks. You swear when you get frustrated sometimes. 

You’re willing to be honest and admit when things are terrible.

But still:

You find that silver lining

2) You give the benefit of the doubt

The next of the top ways to know if you’re an optimist, even in tough times is that you give people the benefit of the doubt. 

For one thing, it simplifies everything quite a bit because you no longer have to suspect and judge everyone so much. 

You give people the benefit of the doubt in what they’re doing and why whenever that’s possible. 

If somebody crosses you, cheats on you or comes after you, you’re going to defend yourself

You have healthy boundaries and you care about yourself and your value. 

It’s just that if you have the choice to interpret a careless word from a friend the wrong way, you’ll give him or her the benefit of the doubt. 

If you have the chance to think the best or the worst of someone you’re generally going to go with the best. 

After all, you’d want the same for yourself in return. 

3) You take failure and setbacks in stride

Every one of us is going to experience failure. 

The more failures you experience is often a sign of being more of a success. 

What I mean is that if you never take big gambles or try hard in pursuit of your goals, you’re not going to fail. 

But if you make a lot of efforts and constantly try new things, you’re going to have more failures than most. 

You take your failures in stride and learn from them. After all, you know that every failure is just a sign of getting closer to your goal. 

As basketball legend Michael Jordan said

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

4) You find opportunities where others just see closed doors

Life is going to slam the doors in our face more times than not. 

But one of the best ways to know if you’re an optimist, even in tough times is that this doesn’t faze you. 

So you lost out on an opportunity, got rejected or had your a** handed to you?

So what.

You’re coming back for more. And this time you’re coming back twice as strong. Ten times as strong. Twenty times as strong. 

Not only do you refuse to give up or doubt your worth.

You also refuse to see one closed door as a permanent thing or a black and white result. It’s just a temporary setback, and soon enough it may open.

5) You try to make up after conflicts and arguments with those close to you

Next up in the top ways to know if you’re an optimist, even in tough times is that you don’t let conflict linger. 

If you fight with friends, family or a loved one, you try your best to make up.

You want to move forward, you really do. 

The idea of staying stuck in the past or bitterness is awful to you, and you’re even willing to accept blame or be patient about what happened if it leads to a reconciliation. 

If you simply don’t keep grudges and have no desire to keep them, there’s zero doubt that you have a huge optimistic streak. 

6) You share inspiring wisdom and advice with people who are struggling

What do you do when you talk to somebody having a hard time?

If you’re an optimist, you try to share your knowledge and wisdom with them. 

It may not do the trick or erase everything that’s wrong; words seldom do. But it is the part you can play and a positive role you can fill. 

The reason this is optimistic is that it’s a classic example of not giving up. 

While you sympathize and wish for things to get better, you also share your life wisdom to let this person know that they will get through this and come out stronger. 

That’s optimism. 

7) You put your best foot forward even in stressful and unkind situations

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. 

That’s you. 

You put your best foot forward and don’t lose momentum, even when the odds are stacked against you. 

It’s not that you’re just a permanently happy camper, it’s more that you know that the other alternatives do no good. 

Playing the victim? For losers. 

Complaining? Waste of energy.

Giving up? Not even an option. 

When things get hard, you double down. That’s the behavior of an optimist, no question. 

8) You break larger goals into manageable steps and hope for the best

If you want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who am I to stop you?

Being in this kind of role could give you great power to do good in the world and influence policymaking and culture.

The question is how you get there. 

There are so many obstacles on the way, but even more, so many dead-ends. 

This is where perseverance comes into play. 

The optimist doesn’t necessarily place all their hope in the future. 

But they are optimistic about the steps they are taking and the progress they are making.

9) You deal with mental and physical health challenges by researching solutions

When life hits you with sickness, you look for solutions. 

If there aren’t any, then you proceed to point one or point eleven. 

But the point is, you face down real problems by looking for real answers.

You don’t just give up or inhabit the victim role, as easy as that might be to do in some cases, especially where you really have been victimized. 

But the point stands:

You’re solution-focused, and not interested in just dwelling on tragedy or setbacks for their own sake or any pity they engender.

10) You face breakups bravely while still finding a way to believe in love  

Then we get to love. 

Even for those who are coupled up and seem very content, plenty of challenges and drama remain. 

But if you’re an optimist at heart, you face the problems and disappointments of love without flinching and you still keep some faith in romance. 

If it doesn’t go well for you, you don’t let that poison the well. 

You don’t throw out all the dogs just because one of them’s got fleas.

11) You have gallows humor when the situation can’t seem to get any worse

Situations come up in life quite a lot that don’t really have a “bright side:”

  • Terminal disease
  • Heartbreak
  • The death of a loved one
  • Addiction and suffering
  • Poverty
  • Abuse

As I mentioned at the beginning, the optimist will find a silver lining. 

But it doesn’t mean you’ll just cheer on the bad times. 

Instead, what often tips the scales is gallows humor. 


“When my friend was dying we were discussing whether he’d like cremation or burial and he was having a hard time choosing between the two,” writes Liz Vande Putte

“I suggested asking if they would do a half and half which made us both laugh, and came up several times as a comic moment during his last days and during the prep for the gathering. 

There were a lot of other gallows moments in those few weeks but I think that was my favorite one (and one which doesn’t require lengthy explanation).”

Keep the lights on…

We can’t be all optimistic all the time.

Life has ups and downs.

But if you’re doing a lot of the things in the list above then make no mistake about it:

You’re an optimist!

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