Do You Have the Personality of an Entrepreneur?

Do you have the ideal personality to be an entrepreneur? New research by Sophia Chou, an organizational psychologist at National Taiwan University, suggests that you do if you’re a “realistic optimist.”

A realistic optimist is someone who has the ability to look on the bright side while accepting hard facts and challenges as they come. He or she is able to identify and resolve current problems while staying upbeat about the future.

This is opposed to an idealistic optimist, or someone who tends to allow positive aspirations to color perceptions of reality. He or she is more likely to underestimate challenges or wrongly assume they can be overcome with ease.

The former personality type — someone who can see the glass as “half full” and remain pragmatic at the same time — has just the right disposition to run a small business.

Chou shared the findings of her research at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in Hawaii in August. In one study, she asked 200 college and graduate students which of two things motivated them more: reality or the prospect of becoming a better person. Those who reported a focus on reality did better in school than their idealistic counterparts, perhaps because the latter were more likely to think they could succeed without applying themselves.

“Realistic optimists tend to choose accuracy over self-enhancement; the unrealistic optimists tend to choose self-enhancement,” Chou explains in the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

Shifting Your Perspective

So, what does this mean for the future-focused small-business owner?

Chou says that realistic and idealistic optimists are different personality types. This would suggest it is difficult to cultivate a realistically optimistic perspective if you aren’t naturally inclined that way, reports

But Chou believes it isn’t impossible. When making decisions, she suggests, try to look hard at reality, but focus most on what you can control. Then take creative action and, when at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

“Every time [realistic optimists] face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they will be creative. They will have a plan A, plan B, and plan C,” she says.

Creative professionals confront reality with flexibility, determination, and a belief that they’ll find a way to succeed. Small-business owners who wish to harness the power of realistic optimism should do likewise.

Katherine Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, who loves writing about small business and entrepreneurship. Her first book, Change Comes to Dinner, explores the way entrepreneurs and other visionaries—from greenhouse innovators to no-till wheat farmers—are changing the business of food.