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Half Full, or Half Empty?

Most people will immediately identify this question as the classic metaphor for how we view our lives.  Do we see them as half-full—filled with joy and wonder, with plenty of room for more?  Or do we see them as half empty—devoid of at least half of what we think we ought to have?

For at least two hundred years, people have identified the “half-full” people we know as “optimists”, and the “half-empty” people in the world as “pessimists”.

You know the difference.  The optimist is the man who is chased high into a tree by a ferocious, hungry lion and finds himself marveling at the beautiful view from that vantage point.  The pessimist is the guy on the branch next to him, on guard for snakes and spiders, who is sure that the branch is breaking and that he will be the first one to be eaten.

In our more hum-drum lives, the optimist is the businessman who is grateful that he was able to get his broken-down car running again and back on the road in less than two hours.  The pessimist is the CEO, in the same circumstance, who is angry that he has been forced suffer a two-hour delay and to come home to a cold dinner with his wife and kids.

In either case, there is a breakdown, a two-hour delay, and a car that gets back into action.  The events themselves are neutral—neither positive nor negative.  But the car owners choose their reactions to the events—whether they are “good” or “bad”—whether their glasses are half-full or half-empty.

How you react to an event is a choice you make.  You can choose to be happy that things worked out all right in the end, or you can choose to be angry and upset that they didn’t go your way in the first place.  You assign to events the value you want them to have.  Next time you’re fuming over what went poorly today, remind yourself of what went well.  You can be angry that your company’s “pay freeze” left you without a raise, or glad that you’re fortunate enough to have a job that you actually like.  You can be miserable about the truck that splashed a mud puddle onto your tan suit, or thankful that you didn’t step a little further out into the street when the vehicle tore around the corner too close to the curb.

But as I see it, the “optimist-pessimist” distinction doesn’t cover all of us.  Some people view their glasses as entirely empty.  Still fewer actually see theirs as being almost full.  In 1992, I was disabled by complications from cancer treatment, and my debts had mounted to a point from which I believed that I could never bounce back.  I have to admit that during those times, I saw my glass as being very empty.

What rose up from the near-ashes of that year, and the five “terrible” years that followed, is a living person who now almost always sees his glass as filled, to overflowing.

Don’t wait for a disaster in your life to choose to see the good in it.  Contact me for more of my story, and for help in getting the fullest perspective on your own.  Whatever you do, keep choosing to keep REACHING…

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