3 Harsh Lessons For The Eternal Optimist

I returned from Las Vegas last night -- my hubby and I were lucky to steal a long weekend alone for the first time in nearly three years. It was wonderful for us to get away together, but more painful for my psyche than it should have been.

I learned (and re-learned) a few hard lessons about myself on this trip, and I hope other overly optimistic, well-intentioned, overwhelmed women might learn from my mistakes.

Being Optimistic is Helpful... Until it's Harmful

Something I love about myself is how I'm optimistic -- I am usually trying to see the good in difficult people, situations, or outcomes. It's definitely helped my personal and professional life, and kept me on the "happy" side of the spectrum for the most part. My positivity is often seen as a desirable trait.

Unfortunately, there are times when being optimistic gets me in big trouble.

There were many times in my life where I have been so focused on the potential for positive outcomes, that I have basically fooled myself into situations that end up burning me. Those situations have included maintaining toxic relationships with friends or men, setting myself up for failure in a job, or assuming I could make Las Vegas a great vacation spot for "mom relaxation".

But Vegas didn't get the memo about shifting my experience, and my wonderful hubby loves the buzz that Vegas has to offer. My visions of relaxing, unwinding, and taking time to chill out were thwarted by the core of what Las Vegas is -- a constant, crowded, overstimulated party.

Before kids, I didn't like what Vegas stood for and what it offered... but I told myself it would be different this time. I fooled myself into thinking that it would be positive, enjoyable, and I would somehow have a different experience. Although my experience was different, it was not better. My overly optimistic viewpoint set me up to flop on my face for a good portion of the trip.

Your Mindset Matters... But Only So Much

I strongly believe that HOW you view a situation is as influential as the situations itself; Shawn Achor and a bunch of other PhDs can back me up on that one. I know that I can choose my response and outlook on a situation, no matter how terrible or great -- my mindset is up to me.

But I also realized this weekend that there is a true limit to how much your mindset can overcome the negative that might be coming your way. Or maybe it's more about the limits of your mindset's "strength" in overwhelming situations.

Our surroundings are constantly providing our brains with sensory influence. Our brains are acting simultaneously as receivers and filters -- constantly taking in and translating what's around us.

At a beach, you constantly listen to water, feel sand, smell salty air, and see foamy waves. Your mindset is continually influenced by these stimuli -- in potential good and bad ways.

In Vegas, you are viewing bright blinking lights and money, smelling smoke and alcohol, hearing loud machines, and bumping into people and man-made "stuff" at all times. No matter how much I tried to turn my mindset to the idea of relaxation and enjoyment, my body and brain were being overloaded by opposing signals.

And I think my mindset wasn't as strong as the environmental stimulus around me... so my focused intentions could really only influence me so much. It kept me calm and happy for about two days, at which point it got exhausted and gave into my feeling of anger for most things Vegas.

Every Vacation is Not for Every Person

And my last lesson: I used to believe that I wasn't built to enjoy every type of vacation as much as the next person, but I'm pretty sure it was forgotten over the last 4 years of kid mayhem and limited adult excursions. I was at a breaking point and needed to get AWAY.

And don't get me wrong -- it was a vacation. We had fun seeing a movie and a show, enjoyed walking around without runaway children, took our time eating amazing food, reconnected as a couple, and slept in. NOT a waste of money or time.


There is absolutely NO shame in my admitting that I am just not cut out for a certain type of vacation.

Losing money while gambling makes me cry, I don't like being inside for long periods of time, I feel very insecure about my appearance in 'fashionable' situations, and I don't like to drink as much as I used to. It's ok. That's me. And I'm not changing anytime soon, thank goodness.

And I'm also not going back to Vegas for quite a while.