You see a glass with water in it. The water is at the half-way mark in the glass.
Which leads to the question:
Is the glass half empty?
Or is the glass half full?
How would you choose to describe it?
A glass containing water to the half-way point is often used to point out the difference between optimists and pessimists. The optimist sees the glass as half full – focusing more on what is there and all that could be done with half a glass of water. The pessimist sees the glass as half empty – focusing more on half the water being gone and, eventually, the glass becoming empty.
Are you the optimist? Or are you the pessimist?
While some people are naturally more optimistic than others, we all get to wake up every day and choose whether we are going to be a glass half-full or a glass half-empty person. Each day offers us the opportunity to make choices in our life. We can spend the day cleaning or spend the day reading. We can go out to dinner or cook at home. We can set our alarm early to go to the gym or we can sleep in and skip our workout. We can choose to think positively or choose to think negatively. Being optimistic is a daily choice we all have.
If you think you’re a natural-born pessimist and you don’t have the choice to be optimistic or to control your mindset, think again. You can learn to be optimistic.
Research published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry compared two groups of people to test their thinking patterns. The first group completed a 5-minute exercise that involved thinking positive thoughts about their future while the second group just went about their daily lives without making effort to think optimistically. The first group significantly increased their optimism over the two-week period with many of them feeling more optimistic after just one day.
Giving serious consideration to what you can do to learn to be more optimistic benefits not only you, but also others. For example, have you ever been in the presence of a whiner or a cynic who sucked the positive energy right out of the room, the group or even you? How did they make you feel when you were in their presence? Did you feel better or bitter? Did you feel hopeful or discouraged? Are they someone you would choose to be in the presence of again?
How you view the world and your future can also influence your students’ outlook on the future. Optimism is contagious. When you are positive your students are more likely to feel positive, too. Pessimism is contagious, too. But, in ways that aren’t helpful.
How do you think your students feel after they spend time with you? Are they hopeful or discouraged? Do they have an optimistic outlook or a negative outlook?
Helping your students create a sense of hope and optimism for themselves, especially during today’s challenging times, begins with you also being hopeful and optimistic. Below are seven strategies for filling up (or overflowing) your cup of optimism. My challenge to you is to try at least one of these in the next week and notice the difference it makes in your outlook and your life.
- Set Your Intention Daily. Before you step out of bed take one minute to set your intention for the day. Come up with one word that resonates with you about the attitude or spirit you want to bring to the day. Being intentional will help you better focus your time and energy.
- Reframe a Problem into an Opportunity. You can’t solve your problems by complaining about them. But, you can solve them (or at least learn to accept them) by reframing them so you can approach them from a new angle. Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems change and transform into a rich array of opportunities to grow, learn and discover inner resources you never knew you had!
- Avoid Positive Energy Zappers. You are who you hang out with. Positive people breed positive energy. Negative people breed negative energy. Who do you hang out with most? Positive people or negative people? If you are struggling to feel more positive, limit the time you spend hanging out with the Debbie Downers or Negative Nellies in your life. It’s important to establish healthy boundaries with people who chronically choose to stay stuck in their own misery of negativity.
- Imagine a Positive Future. Look forward to the future. But, be realistic things may not change quickly. The challenges of today will not be here forever. Writing down your ideas of an optimistic future can truly make a difference when it comes to your overall outlook. Spend 20 minutes four consecutive days writing down what you want to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. Dream big. It’s like Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
- Carry Yourself Like an Optimist. Scientists have already proven that how you present and carry yourself on the outside has a huge impact on how you feel on the inside. If you change how you hold yourself physically, it will change how you feel emotionally. Stand tall, put your chin up, smile and engage with people as though you were the outgoing, confident, optimistic and successful person you aspire to be and you will attract all sorts of positive people and opportunities into your life. As people relate to you differently, you will gradually begin to feel differently – and more positive – yourself.
- Bestow Positivity on Others. While it’s not your job to make everyone happy, it doesn’t hurt to perk up someone’s day. Share positive feedback with someone at least once a day. Compliment a student about a good question they asked or helpful points they brought up in class. At home, praise your child for how hard they worked on their math homework or tell your partner how much you appreciate them. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life. Don’t forget to bestow positivity on yourself. Before bed, think about what you did during the day. Even if it was a generally lackluster day, there’s bound to be something you can praise yourself for.
- Practice Mindfulness and Gratitude. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Observe and be grateful for the positive things in your life. Take time to reflect 5 minutes each day on these positives. Thinking about all the things you have to be grateful for can give you an instant boost of optimism. While thinking about how grateful you are is helpful, sharing your gratitude with others provides added benefits. You will spread a bit of joy and cheer when you tell others how much you appreciate them. Write a letter to someone who made a positive impact on your life, whether it’s a teacher, a former boss or even your mom or dad. If possible, deliver the letter in person.
Being an optimistic person in today’s challenging and negative world begins with your decision to be positive and choosing to live that life every single day. It benefits you and it benefits those around you – including your students.
Now, back to that glass of water…
Is the glass half full?
Is the glass half empty?
Or has the glass always been full?