The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious of the rose.
– Kahlil Gibran
Perhaps one of the biggest deceptions put forward in the self-help industry is the concept that you must choose between being an optimist and being a pessimist. And this propensity is supposedly unveiled when you are asked and then answer the inevitable, stylistic question: Is it half-full or half-empty?
In the real world, when someone sees a glass that is not full, do you know what they really think? Every time. Without fail. We think – it is not full. We don’t naturally process in terms of half-full or half-empty (that’s an artfulness that is superimposed on us and works well for metaphorical lessons and philosophy classes, but it is not too helpful for us to actually act upon). Let me say it, again: The glass is simply not full. Why? Because we easily see the future that is a full glass and our rational mind tells us and our canny eyes show us that the full potential is not being met.
While I am certainly a big supporter of you taking on and delighting in a positive attitude, I have to confess that I have found that the pretentiousness of the half-full/half-empty question does not actually reveal a person’s real world view. In fact, it doesn’t decisively indicate anything at all (except maybe a person’s ability to express what will make them look good in public).
The Key to Mastering the Half-Full/Half-Empty Muddle
While I was overseas recently one thing became abundantly clear – their view of the use of a coffee cup is much different than mine. Whenever I would ask for coffee (other than at a Starbucks where you could specify the size of your drink), the same mismatch of expectations happened over and over; a cup was placed in front of me and it was only partially filled. It didn’t matter the size of the cup. The server never filled my cup to capacity. Inevitably, I would either ask them to fill it up or I would later ask for a second cup. In both situations, the response was a knowing nod and the encapsulating comment, American.
When I first encountered this situation, I wasn’t certain whether to tell the server that the coffee cup was only half-full or half-empty. I knew what I wanted. I wanted it full. It became easier to simply ask, Can you fill it up? I decided that polite dancing around whether the glass was half-full or half-empty would not be practical. It didn’t matter whether I was hopeful or gloomy. I followed a simple strategy: State your desire and get what you ask for.
Now this master plan, of course, takes for granted the magical principle: How you see something directly flows from what you choose to see. And, what you choose to see directly flows from what you want to accomplish.
If you choose to play the half-full/half-empty glass game you are limiting your potential to two scenarios – either the glass was empty but is not yet full or the glass was once full but isn’t anymore. Most of the time, however, those perspectives have no real use if you want to move in the direction of your dreams. We don’t have half-full or half-empty lives. Our lives are quite full all of the time. The real magic is that you get to control how you view your fullness.
The more you remain at the helm of your awareness and understanding, the more you find that the labels of optimist and pessimist lose any power over you. The more you lose ineffective labels, the more clear-sighted you become and your dreams are transformed into attainable goals.
Realizing That Life Is Already Full of Opportunities As The Key To Success
Your ability to escape being mired down by labels and get on with living your life is vital to almost everything that you do. In the context of the Great Half-Full/Half-Empty Glass Deception, there are some terrific and tempting labels: optimist, realist, opportunist (and, of course, their counterparts). Choosing to be labeled any of these, however, limits your options. The optimist is hopeful. The realist is accepting. And the opportunist exploits. None of these labels – as a definition of a life course – permits you the full range of alternatives you know you want to have at your disposal.
It is crucial that you keep your power to choose as wide-ranging as possible and using labels restrains that capability. And, so long as the power of choice remains available to you, your life improves substantially.
Three Half-Full/Half-Empty Glass Myth Busters
Here are three things you can do immediately to start living your life to the fullest and without regard to the optimist/pessimist dichotomy:
1. Realize that what you want to see is the most important thing you can control.
Most pessimists (the ones they say see the glass as half-empty) and optimists (the ones they say see the glass as half-full) will paradoxically tell you that they are just telling it the way it is. However, as realistic as they proclaim themselves to be, it is much more empowering to know that it doesn’t matter.
The most important thing for you to do is to determine, ahead of time, what you want to see in life. What you carry into life with you is what you will ultimately find.
2. You are always free to choose what you want to see.
Yes, the glass is half-full. Yes, the glass is half-empty. You get to choose either answer or both or neither at all! You can choose to see it as half-empty one moment and then half-full the next. You can even choose to ignore the glass entirely.
Everything you need to know about making a choice boils down to one simply strategy: give yourself as many options as possible from which to choose. Oh, one more thing – make your choices so that you don’t have a life full of regrets.
3. Whatever You Choose to See, It’s All Good
Stop doubting your own ability or thinking that you are a bad person because of what you choose to see. So long as your thinking, seeing, and feeling are serving you well, give yourself a lighthearted approach to life. Just as you choose what movie or television show to watch, you get to choose what you see in everyday life. Enjoy the entertainment!
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