The glass is half full/half empty dichotomy has been a favorite illustration for pop psychologists for as long as I can remember. The question is inevitably asked, “What do you see?” After the answer is given, a sort of existential feeling is supposed to be garnished from the answer. As if what you answer will reveal your most inner core of being. The truth is that you may see a half empty glass, or half full glass, or even the glass itself, depending on many factors; least of which are your experiences and how you have been trained to deal with stress.
Our Perceptions Are Very Powerful
The mind body connection is something that I have studied (and experienced first hand) for a long time. What you perceive to be true often is true. If you feel a certain way and let that feeling overpower you, then you most certainly will allow yourself to journey down that feeling’s path and subsequent action sequence. You have more control over your emotional state than you might think, but it takes self awareness and honesty with oneself (and others) to accomplish this feat.
See the Glass for What it is, Glass
When you encounter and emotionally charged situation and you feel yourself going down and electrified negative spiral (we have all been there), analyze the event in your mind as if you were explaining the situation in a classroom or from a scientific perspective. Perhaps you get annoyed if someone pulls out in front of you in traffic and start to say a few choice words about the person that just did that. Perhaps you throw a few choice gestures out the window at that person, amazing your own kids in the car. If you look at the activity from a scientific perspective, and you throw in a dose of empathy, this is what happens. You describe the situation that has just happened using factual, and not emotional descriptors. The person pulled out in front of me perhaps because they did not see me. They may have pulled out in front of me because they were in a hurry. Nothing happened except that I had to slam on my breaks, and there was no physical damage. By analyzing (breaking down the situation) and taking the emotion out of it, you bring calmness to the event and you logically think through the problem. In this case, the glass is a container that holds water, nothing more or less.
Quiet the Ego
Have you ever been in a situation where you were angry at something or wanted to verbally tell someone off? Did you ever feel hurt when you did not get a promotion or felt like it was someone else’s fault because you got in trouble at work? That is your Ego talking to you. By logically working through these problems and accepting responsibility (you should have communicated a little better at work about the project you were working on), you quiet the ego and attain a new level of performance; a performance that is logic and factually based and not emotionally based. Quieting the ego takes practice and training and feedback from both yourself and others. Develop an immediate feedback loop when you do things to keep your Ego in check. You could ask yourself this simple question; is what I just said or did an attempt to pump myself up or to help others? This simple question will keep your ego in check on a continuous basis.
The Personal AAR
Military and other high risk professions, such as Drilling Rigs, use After Action Reviews (AAR) to improve their performance, increase safety, and ultimately save money. Using the same, principles, you can conduct your own personal AAR to turn a negative day into a learning experience. Methodically and logically work through what went right, what went wrong, and what lessons can you learn for next time. Taking the emotion out of your negative day (or any day at all) gives your the power to objectively look at what you did and the control that you need to make it through another day, improving your performance along the way.
Analyze your performance this week every day. Did you accomplish what you needed to accomplish? Why or why not? Critically look at the things that you do through a positive lens and use the personal After Action Review to improve your performance, reduce your stress, and turn lemons into lemonade. You will immediately see the benefits of seeing the glass as half full and not viewing the situation as a negative, stress inducing event.
“Lean into it!”