Sunday, September 16, 2012

Are You More of a Glass Half Full or Empty Person?

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I've long considered myself to be an optimist. By nature I tend to focus on the positive side of things. My 25 years of business experience has trained me to assess and understand all scenarios, but in the end I'm wired to see the proverbial glass of life as "half full" versus "half empty". To me, it all comes down to choices we make in how we want to think. It is the difference between deciding to be happy with what one has, versus deciding to be unhappy because of what one doesn't have. Which do you choose for yourself? British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Isn't it better to spend your precious time on this planet talking what you are happy about, versus complaining about what you don't like? Numerous studies have shown that people who are more positive minded also tend to self report as being more satisfied, fulfilled, and generally happy. The same studies also show those positive minded people as usually being more successful.

It is the power of the mind at work. Even people with rather unfortunate life circumstances can choose to be happy. They can choose to see the glass as half full. I'm not suggesting that life is always easy or happy every day, but generally, you can choose your attitude. Here are two cases in point:

A woman I know lost her husband to an illness. She and her two young kids struggled financially and even lost their home in a foreclosure situation. They moved into a small apartment, and are barely making ends meet. Yet she finds time every Sunday to help poor families at her church. She told me she decided that if she focused on what had gone wrong in her life, she would "short-change" her kids the opportunity for a happy childhood. She feels that while she has had some tough things happen to her, she is grateful to have two healthy kids, her own health, and a job. She even told me that she is happy.  Amazing? Not to me. She made up her mind that she wanted to focus on the positive aspects of her life.

Another person I know very well recently lost his job.  He had a difficult situation at work and the company he worked for let him go for performance issues. He has a new home mortgage, a baby on the way and some credit card debt to repay. He had been earning a very good living and now faces the prospect of finding a job in a difficult economy. He told me last week he decided not to be bitter about having been fired at work. He came to terms with his situation and is grateful to have his health, a wife he loves and a family who are a great support network for him while he decides what to do next. I asked him how he remains so positive-minded. His response was: "What good would it do for me to focus on what has gone wrong? What will it get me to spend my time blaming my old boss or someone else? I've let that go from my mind and now am thinking about better things". 

My view is that we all must take responsibility for our own lives. That means not expecting someone else to fix everything for us. Not the government, the boss, a business, or a clergyman. We alone must take action, work hard, made decisions and accept consequences of our own actions.  We alone must decide whether we want to be happy or not. And I assure you this decision has nothing to do with money, or material possessions.

Before I was preparing for this subject, I stumbled on something in Men's Health magazine this month. Someone had written in asking how to make themselves more of a "glass half full guy". The column responded by referencing the book: "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky with these tips:
  1. Keep a best-possible self journal. spend 15 minutes a week thinking about the life you desire.
  2. Set sub-goals. break down big goals into small, manageable chunks
  3. Overcome dark moods. think about past challenges where you overcame. Save things that are offer encouragement: an email from someone else, a photo of a race you completed, etc and revisit them.
The key is that you can influence the way you think in life. Don't let anyone else influence how you feel. When a person accepts responsibility for one's own thoughts, and how one can influence others then one can influence the direction life can take.

So the question is: Are You More of a Glass Half Full or Empty Person? The good news is, the choice is all yours.

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