A Glass Full of Wonder

Blog 2021-08-24 photo

You’ve likely heard the terms “glass half-full” and “glass half-empty” used to describe the outlooks people can have when looking at the same, seemingly exact, thing. While the water level in this figurative glass is the same for both (that is, half-way up or down the glass), people can perceive the same glass of water differently.

Glass half-full is associated with abundance and optimism; glass half-empty is associated with scarcity and pessimism. Some people may see themselves in the middle…the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, it just is what it was (i.e., no label needed). In any case, our chosen outlook serves us in some way. For example, being optimistic might create a feeling of calmness. Or being pessimistic may help one avoid disappointment from hoping for too much.

I used to see the glass as half-empty. Doing so served me by being conservatively cautious in life. Then, at one point in my life, I experienced a lot of loss at once – my mother, marriage, health, job, residence, and identity – and it felt as if I’d lost everything. But the reality was I didn’t lose everything – I still had my ability to breathe and my heartbeat. I decided to give thanks for still being alive and worked to re-gain some of those missing aspects of my life. During the process, I experienced a sensation that everything would be fine despite these great losses. I realized my half-empty glass was, indeed, half-full.

What previously felt to me like naiveté or Pollyanna thinking was now my way of thinking: abundance and optimism. Over the years, I kept seeing that despite ongoing adversity, I believed everything will be all right. I purposefully bring this mindset to my work now and it has become key in my daily practice of leadership.

Whichever outlook may resonate, what if success was less about how much is in the glass and more about what is in the glass? In other words: quality over (relative) quantity. I believe we all have an opportunity to perceive life as a glass filled with wonder. The kind of wonder I refer to has us appreciating whatever shows up, as new experiences create learning and growth. I don’t mean the kind of wonder that causes doubt and uncertainty to occupy our minds, because what we fill our minds with is often what we end up creating and bringing to life.

I wonder (pun intended) how you see the contents of this proverbial glass; what is your outlook on life? As Aristotle said, knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

This Week’s Challenge: Consider your general outlook on life – have you tended to see the glass half-full or half-empty? Are you full of wonder and appreciation for whatever shows up in your life? No matter your answer, ask yourself: How does this outlook help me in life? This challenge is not about shifting from pessimism to optimism. Rather, it is about raising your awareness around how well your choice of life outlook may serve you and/or hold you back.

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  1. Doug Brady on August 24, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    Excellent Jen!

    I’ll take Abundance v Scarcity every day.

    • Jen McEwen on August 24, 2021 at 8:01 pm

      Yes and some wonder to go with that! Thanks for suggesting the topic, Doug.

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