Half-Empty, Half-Full, What a Crock!

By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

I think everyone is familiar with the question “Is the glass half-empty or is the glass half-full?”  The insinuation is that those who see the glass as half-empty are negative thinkers and those who see the glass half-full are positive thinkers.  What a crock!

Half-full or half-empty

Instead of looking at how much water versus how much air is in the glass, why not look at the glass.  If you have an 8 ounce glass with 4 ounces of water in it, it is either half-empty or half-full.  If you pour all of that water into a 4 ounce glass, that glass is totally full.  If you pour those same 4 ounces of water into a 16 ounce glass, there is more air than water.  But what if you could add water?  Or what if the glass contains no water at all?  Maybe it’s time to move on!

There is a time for positive thinking and there is a time for negative thinking.  A positive mind set can provide inspiration in a difficult situation.  A positive attitude can move mountains against great odds.  A negative attitude serves us well when we need to get to the truth.  You don’t want a radiologist who sees a dark spot on your MRI saying, “Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing.”  You want him to get to the truth and not gloss over that dark spot with unsubstantiated positivity.  The same goes for a referee during a football game.  A referee can’t think, “I’m sure he didn’t mean to break the rules” and let the play continue without calling a penalty.  If he did, there would be riots!

We get so caught up in the positive/negative thinking we don’t even consider the glass.  What would a different glass do to the situation?  What would adding water do?  What would pouring some, if not all of the water out of the glass do?  Don’t get so wrapped up in the positive/ negative aspect of thinking that you can’t see the entire picture.

Effective leaders know when to see the glass half-full.  Effective leaders know when to see the glass half-empty.  Great leaders look at the glass to see if a different size or shape is needed.  Great leaders understand when it is time to pour some if not all of the water out of the glass.  Great leaders know when the glass needs to be filled to overflowing.  Great leaders don’t just focus on whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, great leaders see the bigger picture.

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