I’m not really a fan of New Year’s resolutions. They’re too easy to break, and that makes me feel like a failure early on in the new year. If you’re going to make those dreaded resolutions, make sure you can keep them. So be careful how you craft them. Some of my favorites are: I will not be late for work — on the second Tuesday of the week. I will give up sweets with names beginning in “x.” See, it’s easy.
This year, instead of making any zany resolutions, I am going to concentrate on an age-old question, pick a stance on that issue, and move toward exposing its merits. I’m talking about the infamous question: Is the glass half full or half empty? This debate has been raging for decades. They say half-full respondents are optimists. Half-empty advocates are pessimists. But who the heck are “they”? And what do “they” know that we don’t?
Actually, the focus of this age-old question is not about the infamous glass. Rather, it’s about the perspective of the observer. Research shows that seeing the glass half full not only makes you happier, it makes you healthier and wealthier. A study by Psychologist Susan Segerstrom found that 10 years after they graduated, law students who were optimistic earned an average of over $32,000 more than their glass-half-empty peers. If you expect good things to happen, that will lead you to take actions that produce positive results. Expecting only bad stuff to follow you around will keep you from doing the very thing that just might have minimized or avoided that.
Here are a few strategies for filling your cup with optimism. I believe if you try even one or two of them, you’ll notice the difference in your outlook on life. Start every day out with your intention for the day. Pick out that word that resonates for you that day. What will help shape your attitude that day? Then focus your time and energy on that intention.
Another exercise is to do something outside your comfort zone. No matter how scary it sounds, there’s no better way to build self-confidence than by trying something that forces you to stretch. It also teaches you that you are capable of more than you thought you were. You can also reframe a problem into an opportunity. Your problems aren’t solved by complaining about them. So, try to reframe them so that you can approach them from a new angle.
Another thing to remember: Optimism is contagious. So is pessimism. Don’t waste your time hanging out with emotionally draining pessimists. They can suck the life right out of a room with their complaints about everything that’s wrong with the world. And how about just lightening up. With a few exceptions — John Belushi and John Candy come to mind — comedians tend to live long lives. It’s because they have become masters at finding the humor in even the most unfunny situations. While it’s not always easy to see the humorous side of things, it’s always helpful. Laughter is a highly effective cure to almost every ailment, anxiety or adversity.
But I think the best answer to this dilemma came from Mark Harmon, who stars as special agent Gibbs on NCIS. When asked if the glass is half full or half empty, Harman replied, “It depends on what’s in the glass.” I’d say that makes him an opportunist. And I’ll drink to that! And that’s my stance for the New Year. Have a happy one!
Lynne Conlan is Executive Director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. Call her at 813-634-5111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.