If I were to ask you how you view your life in general using a metaphor of a glass of water. Would you see it as half full or half empty?
My definition of seeing life as half full would be trying to see the positive in everything and any situation I encounter. As opposed to half empty which would mean to me seeing the negative and worst possible outcome in any situation or experience.
A while ago a client asked me if I perceived life as either half full or half empty. I immediately replied, “definitely half full”. This has always been my preferred default setting.
I used to take pride in myself for being the most positive person I know. The trouble was that deep down I really didn’t feel positive at all, it was just a front or persona to hide my insecurity and the loneliness of who I thought I was.
Even in times of self-doubt, when my life seemed like a dark place to be in, I would kid myself in trying to believe that everything was ok.
It would have been easier and more honest to see my life as half empty, but I never could really go there in myself and accept this outcome. Instead I would fill my head with books explaining techniques and strategies on how to become positive and cling on to what I was reading as if it was a life ring supporting me in turbulent water. Even though, the action of trying to be positive never seemed to work as I kept on experiencing the same fluctuating emotions of sadness and self-doubt within myself.
The problem for me with the glass half full / half empty scenario is that, although it seems an interesting way to monitor how one would view life, it never managed to resonate or feel completely true to me on a deeper level. There was always a huge gap between what I wanted to experience in my mind and what I was actually feeling in my body.
I know it’s not a good idea to get stressed and anxious within myself and that calmness is always the preferred feeling; but as I have experienced, it’s not so simple to just change one’s thoughts and feelings in an instant, although it would be lovely to be that way.
It would be like telling myself not to get stressed out and immediately feel calm?
What I found interesting from the original question was that I surprised myself with my initial response, because as quickly as I replied: “I see life as half full’, somehow this answer didn’t resonate with me like it once used to. Something had changed within me on a deeper level. I started to become curious into how I would now truthfully answer this question.
Whether I see my experiences and interactions in life from a negative or positive view point, I’ve come to realise that sometimes things work out for me, and sometimes they don’t, but the deciding factor is always going to be:
Its only ever my interpretation of the events unfolding that determines my response whether something is good or bad.
I have noticed that whether a situation appears negative or to be the worst possible outcome in one moment, can seem like a blessing in the next moment, or at some point when my perspective on the situation changes.
About 5 years ago my wife was involved in a serious car collision that has left her unable to walk properly for the foreseeable future. In an instant our family life took a dramatic turn in a different direction. At the time, if I am honest, I probably perceived life as half empty but through the passage of time and reflection, my perspective on how our life was before the accident, how it is now and will unfold in the future is that we are traveling on a different road or life path together. I see it as neither good nor bad. In fact, for me this experience has enriched me on a deeper level, and I can honestly say that I am a different person to who I used to be before the accident. I feel contented with the realisation that:
It’s not what happens in life that’s important, but how we react to these life events that’s going to be a game changer.
We seem to live in a mind full of fluctuating feelings, ranging from desperate to joyful and everything in between.
While there is nothing wrong with experiencing these different states of mind, in fact it’s perfectly normal that our mood will change throughout the day, the problem I find with experiencing these different states of mind is that I am always trying to favour one over another, which creates a duality within me. I have a tendency to want to chase the good feelings, the happy state of mind, the calmness over feeling anxious, frustrated or insecure within myself. While I can think of completely validated reasons for wanting to feel good over feeling low in myself, it’s the chase between favouring one state of mind over the other and constantly analysing how am I doing which creates turbulence and uneasiness within myself.
Another way of saying it would be:
Getting attached to one state of mind over another would be like trying to change the weather system, by blowing the rain clouds away to experience the sunshine.
While this may sound like a good idea to me, I also know that it’s impossible to do and would create a lot stress in the process.
What I have come to realise from my own personal coaching journey is that in any given day I’m probably going to experience a variety of different mental states. Whatever I am feeling or experiencing in my head is neither good or bad, but it will appear or feel real for me physically and in my emotional response.
At the centre of the pendulum, I call it my natural state of mind, or the real me. This is my most instinctive and optimum state of mind I was born into.
The qualities of this state of mind are calmness, clarity, openness, ability to see the bigger picture, a sense of inner knowing and connection to my intuition. It’s generally a space we human feel most comfortable and at ease to be in, and a space where we experience love and connection with others.
At either end of the pendulum swing is a space where we experience disconnection with our true self. This imaginary pendulum of my state of mind is constantly swinging back and forth, allowing me to experience at one end moments (or even hours) of feeling angry frustrated or annoyed to then experience feelings of happiness, contentment, and clarity.
Knowing and expecting to feel these various fluctuations within my thought patterns throughout the day is helpful. It’s also good to know these emotional states can be an internal warning system to let me know that I am momentarily off track with my sense of reality and probably a good time to take it easy, have a cup of tea or get some fresh air.
Saying it in another way, when I feel upset, angry or frustrated with myself, it’s an opportunity to go easy on myself, providing I’m not venting my anger or frustration on anybody else or object or even my cat, I can then accept the fact that it’s ok to feel off balance. I’ve realised (but sometimes I do and will forget) on a deeper level that whatever I am thinking, and feeling right now won’t last forever, the nature of our thinking pattern is always in a constant state of change. So just as the pendulum swings my mind into frustration, in time (you never know how long it will take) eventually the pendulum will swing back to a state of calmness because:
Feeling calm in our heads and relaxed in our bodies is the most natural and optimal functional state we are designed to be in.
Glass half empty or full? Depending on what ever mood you are in at the moment, will be always dependent on what your answer is going to be.
The trick is seeing and understanding on a deeper level that what we are currently experiencing is just like the weather system happening right now outside. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or stormy, nothing is ever permanent, at some point the clouds will clear allowing the sunshine to break through because although we may not see the sun is always shining, Just like our calm, centred self, it is always within us, it’s just that the stormy thoughts in our mind is obscuring our current vision or take on reality.