A Matter of Perspective

Half empty or half full? Each new day, we have a fresh choice of how we look at our lives, our circumstances, the “hand we’ve been dealt.” What are you choosing?

We all know people that look at life through negative lenses. They see the shortcomings in every situation. Yes, they might make great quality inspectors looking for defects on a manufacturing line. But in terms of life, it’s a draining perspective for everyone in that person’s world. And most of all, it’s a slow emotional death for the person themselves.

Being a “half empty” kinda person is easy. It’s reflexive.  Misery loves company, and a negative, “ain’t it awful” outlook spreads faster than pink eye in a preschool. But it’s a daily choice that each of us can make.

Here are 7 simple habits that help maintain a “half full” perspective:

1. Start with yourself. So often, a negative voice begins with the messages we tell ourselves. Listen to your inner dialog. Are you constantly saying things to yourself like: "You idiot?" "You're a loser." "I knew I would fail." "I can't stop doing this." "That's just who I am." Stop beating yourself up and telling yourself lies. Try putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping yourself every time you catch yourself repeating some sort of negative self talk. A negative attitude toward the world generally starts from within.

2. Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to build your gratitude “muscle.” Keep a small notebook by your bed, and before you turn off your light at night, write down at least one experience or observation from the day for which you can give thanks. The book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a wonderful guide to developing an attitude of gratitude.

3. Speak and write words of affirmation. Look for positive attributes in the people closest to you (starting with yourself!), and most importantly, tell them. Set a goal for yourself of affirming one thing in the people you love every day. At first, they might wonder if you have a terminal illness or are guilty of something, but I promise, the words will be like music to their ears.

4. Ask God to change your heart. If you’ve been stuck in the rut of negative thinking for a long time, it might seem impossible to change. Hard, yes. Impossible, no. “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” (Matthew 19:26 The Message) This is one of those areas that requires supernatural help. You can’t do it alone. But with God’s help, you can.

5. Look for purpose in your pain. A counselor once told me that “God wastes nothing.” At the time, I wanted to punch her. But over the last decade, I’ve learned the truth in the statement. No, I’m not suggesting that we all morph into Pollyanna. But I know from personal experience that if you ask God what He wants you to learn from life’s hard experiences, you’ll find rich answers. Don't allow bitterness to take root in your life.

6. Invite honest feedback. Do you have one or two trusted friends who have permission to speak truth into your life? It’s invaluable. If you’re trying to change a negative outlook, put down your plexiglass defensive shield and listen. Ask a trusted friend to give you candid feedback about how you’re doing on this noble goal.

7. Remember that your attitude is one of the few things in life you can control. The majority of things in life are outside of our influence. The weather. The economy. The behavior of others. Decisions of government officials. So many things that are beyond our immediate influence. But you can choose your attitude. Every day.

Swim upstream. Decide to be different. Look for the positive. That glass really is half-full!