Sunday, May 1, 2011
When the Glass Is Only Half Full
When people talk about the power of positive thinking, sometimes they slip over the rails into "blind optimism with no regard for reality." While I do think it's important to see the possibilities in a situation, I also think it's important to line up one's expectations and actions with practical reality. Glass-half-empty thinking is problematic because it always reveals the shortcomings of a situation, but glass-half-full thinking runs the risk of ignoring pitfalls, or at least pretending that they don't exist in the hopes that luck will claim victory over logic. Someone who sees the glass half empty is more likely to see that there is an issue crying out for a solution, but if you believe in the detrimental impact of negative thinking, accomplishing that solution can be a struggle for the pessimist who sees every glass as somewhere between half-empty and bone dry.
Which is why I have endeavored to formulate a new take on the glass: it's only half full. It is on the road to being full, but it isn't there yet. It isn't half empty, but it's only half full. There is still work to be done, and that work can have a positive impact. There's no reason to lament that the glass isn't full, but if a full glass is what you want, you can't ignore the fact that the glass simply isn't full yet. It's half full, though, which is better than being less than half full. To me, it amounts to recognizing whatever goal the full glass represents and acknowledging that I have covered some ground and still have a bit more to do. When there is room for improvement, I can take action. That's what the glass being only half full symbolizes to me.
All of this has come into play this week because of a job opening accompanying a program that involves playing the same music twice a day, five days a week. If I go for the position, I could be working with some great people, and I would be facing the challenge of mental and artistic tedium. The scarcity-theorist within me urges me to jump at it because it's the only accompanying offer on the table at the moment, but strategically, the timing of this position would eliminate any possibility of teaching a university course in the next year or accompanying college recitals or high-school solo and ensemble events. As I spoke with a couple of people in the know about the opportunity, it dawned on me that I was selling myself a bit short.
It's true that I don't have a ton of opportunities for musical collaboration on the table at this moment, but that doesn't mean that I have to accept a position that is (by all reports) less than what I want. Just because I want a full glass doesn't mean that I have to throw in anything that will raise the water line. It matters what I want the glass to be full of. (Horrible grammar, but still...) My first step is to define what would equate to a full glass. Then I can recognize that, at this moment, my glass is only half full. That leads to identifying what I can do to get the glass a little closer to full.
When I start thinking that the glass is half empty, it can spark a bit of panic. I have to do something about filling up the glass. Anything. That's often not a terribly helpful line of thinking. I prefer what happens when I think that the glass is only half full right now. Sometimes, when I take a step back, I realize that it's actually a little more than half full. Sometimes I think that the glass will never be completely full. And that's OK.