Cultivating Happiness: Is your glass always Half Empty?

By Gay Matheson
2004-01-08

"Reframing" is perhaps one of the most effective ways to change your attitude about a situation quickly. Since happiness is based a great deal on contentment, the ability to shift (reframe) your perspective from one of "half-empty" to one of "half-full" is a skill worth mastering.

Many people think happiness is found in external events. The problem with this limited view is it keeps us victims of our circumstances. If we think happiness lies mostly in our state of mind, then we can be flexible and creative in our outlook, and therefore our solutions.

Let's say you get a new job that entails commuting for an hour a day. You can go on and on about what a drag it is and destroy your satisfaction and excitement about getting a new job, or you can look on the bright side and tell yourself, "Great, now I have time to listen to books on tape that I haven't had time for." Or, you think to yourself how glad you are to have some quiet time everyday to get your thoughts together.

Maybe you find a favorite condo at Big Bear is booked during your time off this year and you were really looking forward to spending your vacation there. Once again, you can be completely upset or you can use this opportunity to investigate new places that you might like even better.

Reframing is a powerful tool, quick and easy to use, but in no way should it be used to avoid more deep-seated problems that you do have control over. For example, if your fourth marriage is breaking up, this isn't the time to say, "Great, this will give me a chance to be independent again." Though that may be true, four marriages that didn't work out are a pattern that deserves exploration (otherwise the fifth is just around the corner).

What if you work in an office with a broken heater? It's freezing in the office and you continually express your discomfort to your employer. Your employer says the problem will be handled, but nothing gets done. In this case it would be in your best interest to confront the situation honestly and make a change rather than making the best of it by reframing. Here you might ask yourself, "Why would I earn money for an employer who obviously does not care about me (my comfort)?"

"This is not a reciprocal relationship (win-win) it is a win-lose situation and I'm losing." The next question to ask yourself is, "Do I have other relationships that are not reciprocal? Is this a pattern of mine, giving more than I get?"

If you are one of those people where the glass is always half-empty, then deeper issues need to be explored. This could be a defense against disappointment that is destined to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It could be a result of unresolved anger. Whatever the cause, if left unresolved, a life of bitterness and resentment awaits.

We take responsibility for our lives with each and every decision we make. If we approach these decisions consciously and give them the import they deserve, we can't help but create more peace and happiness. When we start feeling better and start getting different results in the world we have feelings of efficacy and bring the power home. This is a mastery, and mastery is the basis of self-esteem.

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