I probably say this about most of my podcast, but today’s makes me happy. Being the holiday season and as noted in last week’s podcast, the holidays can be tough for some people, so I thought this would be a perfect time to discuss a well-known saying.
“Is the glass half empty or half full?” According to Wikipedia, this a common expression, a proverbial phrase, generally used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty), or as a general litmus test to simply determine an individual’s worldview. The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one’s point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation, as well as trouble.
This idiom is used to explain how people perceive events and objects. Perception is unique to every individual and is simply one’s interpretation of reality. The phrase “Is the glass half empty or half full” can be understood also as a philosophical question.
Another perspective comes from psychology, where research has shown that a speaker’s choice of frame can reflect their knowledge of the environment, and that listeners can be sensitive to this information.
It has also been pointed out by some that the answer could depend on how the glass became half full or empty, in the first place. This perspective states that if the glass was empty and then filled half way, it is half full; while if the glass was full and some liquid was taken out, it is half empty.
And just to elaborate a bit more about the different viewpoints of this saying, here are some quotes to give you a broader perspective.
The optimist says: “The glass is half-full.” The pessimist says: “The glass is half-empty”. And while they are arguing, the pragmatist takes the glass and drinks it.
The personal coach knows that the glass goes from full to empty depending on the circumstances, and reminds the drinker that he can always fill the glass when he wishes.
The millennial says: I cannot make an informed decision about whether the glass is half-full or half-empty before I have checked all the reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor.
The research scientist says that following initial observation and testing, a working hypothesis for further research is: “The glass is both half full and half empty,”
The radical thankful child of Jesus says, “THE CUP RUNNETH OVER.”
The Successful Job Interviewee picks up the glass, drinks the water and says: “I am a problem solver!”
Sorry, those are just funny to me. So, where does that leave us? My two favorite are the personal coach one and the successful job interviewee one, which probably nails me as more of a glass half full person. But, don’t be so quick to judge because I am a child of God and my cup DOES runneth over!!
But in all seriousness, a team of Psychologist from Michigan State University say that the ability to stay positive or negative, in a rough situation is hardwired in our brain and it’s the first ever study of its kind proving the idea that there really are positive and negative people in the world. The study, which appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, is the first to provide biological evidence validating the idea that there are, in fact, positive and negative people in the world.
Researchers discovered that levels of a molecule called neuropeptide Y (NPY) directly relates to whether we have a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” attitude towards life.
Those with lower levels of the substance are much more negative and find it more difficult to deal with stressful situations. They are also more susceptible to depression.
The team at University of Michigan believes the amount of NPY in the brain is genetically programmed and hope the discovery could lead to early diagnosis of and prevention of psychiatric illness.
The study also showed that negative thinkers could also practice thinking positively, although it would take a lot of time and effort to even start to make a difference.
So, while there is scientific proof for why this saying exists, the facts are that the human mind can be reprogrammed.
There’s an adage that I have used my whole life that comes from a half full perspective and it is “don’t cry over spilled milk.” Just the other day, I got a call from my business partner about a situation that happened to him while he was working on an art project of his.
He does these beautiful hand-carved wood plaques and this particular one was a logo for a company that he had been commissioned to do. He had just finished carving it and went to work on another piece which required red paint. Yep, you probably know what I’m about to say. He turned and the red paint splattered on half of the logo art piece.
Of course he was upset. It takes a good amount of time to hand-carve these pieces and he’s meticulous about his work. He calls me a bit panicked, probably just to vent his frustration, and I repeat my saying. It’s done – no point in crying over spilled milk. I get it. It’s annoying, but you can make something out of it or just simply start over. No point in wasting any more time being annoyed with yourself.
So, what did he do? Well, he took that “messed up” piece and decided how to turn it into something even better. He used the red paint spill as a back drop and white washed the front, sanded it and voila – he had a whole new concept to the same piece. He sent me a picture of it and said he was glad the paint spilled.
Now, here’s the thing. Me – I grew up in an amazing home with fantastic parents, who modeled a glass half full life for me and I never wanting for anything. My business partner, he comes from a completely different life. BUT – you would never know it. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t divulge his childhood experiences. Trust me, he’s an overcomer of some great injustices that no child should have to bear or witness.
With that said, he could probably fit into the category of being “genetically programmed” for negativity; he is proof that how you see your environment is a choice. Does he struggle with it more than me? Yes, but he wins the struggle – THAT is the point.
I know some people wish that life would be easier, with less trials, etc. I file that under the spilled milk category. I take responsibility for my choices, no matter how painful they may be. And I make a choice to find the joy. I make a choice to find what I’m grateful for. Believe me, I get it. Some days; some situations – that is a tough choice to make. The darkness or heaviness of a situation can consume you, no matter how you are hard wired. But in the end, you have the choice to decide how you see it.
All in all, let’s go and do what works. Finding the glass half full is lighter and brighter. I don’t think anyone can argue that. For that reason, let me repeat my two favorite quotes in hopes they might help keep you on the half full path . . .
the glass goes from full to empty depending on the circumstances, and reminds the drinker that he can always fill the glass when he wishes . . .
OR when the situation calls for it, pick up the glass, drink the water and say: “I am a problem solver!”
I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey today!! The road to excellence is paved with many stories and it would make my heart sing to know that you spending time with me today has, in some way, helped you see the gift that you are to this world.
If you’d like to see the artwork I mentioned that my business partner does, you can find him on Etsy under Mr. Hangman Art. Thank you for joining me today and until next time, Live Excellence.