Saturday, May 9, 2009

1% Empty

At one point or another in your life, you were probably asked the question "are you someone who sees the glass as being half empty or half full?" (That or some variation.)

The question puts forth the classic boundary between pessimism and optimism. Over the years, I've found it to be a great question to consider whenever encountering challenging situations. Sometimes, just challenging myself with the question causes me to realize that I might want to change my perspective on the situation. Simply changing perspective changes everything else.

Lately though, I've encountered an amazing phenomenon: all sorts of people who see the glass as being 1% empty. They seem to have an uncanny ability to find what's wrong in almost any situation, to focus on it, to grow it to the point of masking all else, to find the dark cloud lurking below any silver lining.

Here are a couple of questions that will help you determine whether or not you exhibit 1% empty behavior.
  1. When considering new ideas or opportunities, do you spend more time thinking about the things that could go wrong or on the things that could go right? What percentage of your great new ideas do you pursue?

  2. When undertaking a new diet or exercise regimen, if you have a lapse (e.g. eat a peace of cake at a party or skip a workout session), do you feel badly about it, beat yourself up, and start to doubt whether or not you can do it, or do you let it go and pick up as though nothing happened?

  3. In your relationships, when the other person does something that you find challenging (e.g., getting upset with you, saying something angry or negative, showing up late for an appointment, doing something "embarrassing" in a group), do you see it as a "sign" or indicator of other potential issues, or do you see it as a single incident and let it go?

  4. When talking about others while they're not present (i.e., gossiping), what percent of what you say would be considered positive or flattering, and what percent would be considered negative or insulting? What percent of what you talk about would you say if the person were there?
Essentially, a 1% empty attitude results from taking a small number of (or even just one) negative indicators and using them as the primary filter through which you view a situation.

Now, I've always considered myself to be a 1% full type of guy. No matter what the challenge, my first inclination is to always see a way through it, a path to success, a challenge that's engaging and fun. Except... Well, except when it comes to people and relationships.

Give me any technical problem, any physical challenge, any business issue, any marketing dilemma, and I pretty quickly get to "no problem". But, give me a people challenge and, well... People are just so much more challenging than anything else. And, I think my plight affects more people than me.

So, I've created some new resolutions and beliefs for myself regarding people.
  1. In the grand scheme of things (across space, time, et al), we're all much more alike than we are different. We all have pretty much the same motivations (health, happiness, friendship, safety, well being); we just often differ in our beliefs on what is required to get there.

  2. Given item 1, then it's very difficult to ever actually get to a truly 1% empty scenario when working with other people.

  3. Therefore, if I find myself in what I consider to be a 1% empty scenario, it must be some fabrication on my part (no doubt for good reason, but nonetheless a fabrication).

  4. Given that the 1% empty scenario is a fabrication, well, the rest is easy.
So, are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person? Are there any situations in your life where you're a 1% empty person?

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