What Kind of “IST” Are You?

If you’re confused about what an Ist is, it’s okay. You probably haven’t thought about it much before, but it’s time to take an honest look at your ist.

What I’m referring to is the three traditional ists:

  • PessimIST
  • OptimISt
  • RealIST

Now you see where I’m heading? But I also want to take a look at what’s really behind each of these and what I believe are the inherent flaws of each of them. I’ll also share with you a brand new IST — the one that I claim for myself.

First, let’s look at the pessimist, which has been defined as “a person who tends to see the worst aspect of things or believes that the worst will happen.” Does this fit you? If you’re not certain, ask your friends and colleagues how they experience you.

Second is the optimist, which has been defined as “a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something” or “tends to see the best in things and situations.” We’d typically describe an optimist as being opposite of a pessimist, and your IST can be situational. In other words, sometimes you’re optimistic and sometimes you’re pessimistic depending on the situation or context. As above, if you want some clarity on your IST then ask your friends and colleagues.

Third, we come to what’s called a realist, which has been defined as “a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly.” While some of you might want to claim this IST, I wonder if it’s really accurate. Many times I encounter people who say they’re realists, but their perspectives betray them. Typically because they read much more into the situation beyond what it actually is.

Wherever you are today with your IST — pessimist, optimist or realist — keep this in mind. All three of these ISTs are choices and they’re based upon what you choose to believe about what’s in front of you (person, situation, event, etc.). A pessimist chooses to see the worst of possibilities (or lack of them). An optimist chooses to see the best of outcomes, but might be pollyannaish or it’s all an act. And a realist chooses to act as if they don’t have a perspective, whether that’s true or not.

There’s no right or wrong IST, but they all have benefits and challenges to them. Most important, they all are based upon the judgments and perceptions that we put on a situation, and these will often become our reality.

Thus, I offer you the ITist — a perspective and way of being that I’ve embraced — which means that you fully and literally see things and situations as IT is. This means without judgments (as consciously as you can be), perspectives and labels. In other words, I don’t attribute meaning to the situation beyond the facts of the situation.

Let’s look at a simple but illustrative example. Yesterday, I asked someone at a meeting how the weather was (by the way, I was in Raleigh) and she said, “It’s cold.” Without getting into whether this answer was pessimistic, optimistic or realistic (she thought she was being a realist), I told her that I’m an ITist and “it’s 45 degrees.” Certainly, different people would describe 45 degrees as cold, normal or warm (depending on the area, their personal preferences, time of year, etc.), but these are all part of the judgments and perceptions we put on information, events and situations.

I also suggested to her that as soon as she defined the day as cold, it’s likely that she’d experience being cold during the day unless the temperature dramatically increased. In other words, what you decided something is usually determines what your experience of it is. However, an ITist chooses not to add to the information/reality/facts and therefore, is not unconsciously impacted by their own perceptions and judgments.

Let’s look at a business situation. Let’s assume that you lost a large existing client — a loss that might have some impact on the overall business. You can choose to start worrying about the worst case scenario (pessimist), choose to assume everything will be okay but not take any action (optimist) or choose to see it for what it is (realist). However, even the realist is likely to consciously or unconsciously add some perceptions or judgments to the data (a large existing client left). For example, the realist might conclude that the company is at risk and take action accordingly, but also creates a sense of fear and uncertainty in the company.

In contrast to all of these, an ITist would see nothing more than the data of the lost client — instead of labeling the client as large, simply seeing it as the loss of a client that last year did $100,000 of business with your company. The ITist would also choose not to assess the degree of risk to the company, thereby minimizing any potentially limiting or negative reactions such as fear or uncertainty. We can create and act with a sense of urgency without the need to be afraid or uncertain.

While a realist and an ITist seem similar, the key difference is that an ITist makes the conscious decision to not add any judgments, assessments or perspectives on the information (none at all). An ITist sees the facts of the situation or events and proceeds accordingly. 

I encourage you all to consider three things. First, the ways you typically see and experience things and situations now (pessimist, optimist or realist). Second, to consider the ways that you choose (consciously or unconsciously) to add your own spin, judgments and perceptions. Third, to consider the benefits of embracing the ITist approach.

One thing for certain is that being and living in the present is the way of the ITist, so if you’re pursuing being more present then you’re already on the path to being an ITist. I look forward to welcoming many of you as part of the ITist tribe in the near future.

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