Every individual makes choices in life. We choose to look at each obstacle or disruption as either an opportunity or a roadblock – something that keeps us from achieving our goals or something that strengthens us as we overcome adversity. We make intentional decisions to live in the past, to be content with the present or to seek a not yet defined future – but nothing can be achieved without a decision being made and an action being taken (even if the decision or action is to do nothing). While environment and upbringing may have much to do with how we view things, perspective, ambition and values tend to define what we believe is possible while comfort, ambivalence and acceptance keeps us from reaching for more than has been accomplished.
Much of who we are, what we accomplish and how successful we will be is defined by our perspective in life. The way we look at things – see the potential rather than the probable, the possible rather than the obvious – helps to establish the kind of life we lead, the relationships we maintain and the future we can expect to realize. Consider the following:
- Do you measure what you have gained or what you have lost in life? Some people look at life as being a series of accomplishments and a list of opportunities that have yet to be realized. Far too many focus upon what “could have” or “should have” been – wallowing in jealousy, self-pity and the unfairness of life. When we begin to measure life by counting our losses rather than by celebrating our gains – by relying upon what we know to be reality rather than seeking to establish new realities – we become but a participant in history rather than a part of its creation.
- Do you look ahead towards what has yet to be realized or find comfort in what you have accomplished? Individuals finding comfort in what they have done tend to live in the past. They find value in the things they do – often establishing their identity in what they are rather than who they are. Those looking towards what has yet to be revealed – leveraging their knowledge, abilities and experience to solve new problems and reach new plateaus as they fearlessly walk where nobody has yet wandered – will lead by example rather than being led by others.
- Is your world one of endless beginnings or the beginning of constant ends? Some look at accomplishments as the end of a successful journey. They see effort, hard work and sacrifice as the raw materials from which rewards are created – often finding comfort in their destination without wishing (or needing) to leave the “safe haven” they built. Others see each “end” as but a beginning to something new. They pause to catch their breath before starting a new climb – finding contentment in reaching new heights. These individuals draw lines in the sand so they can cross them as they move forward rather than using them to establish boundaries or limits to keep them safe. They find joy in the journey – pride in their progress – rather than needing to identify an end to their efforts or building a harbor from which they will never sail.
- When you see a shadow do you focus on the lack of light or on the light that created the darkness? Too many people see (and are satisfied with) the symptoms or results of a situation rather than asking “Why?” or seeking the root cause of an issue. It is good to recognize that something exists – be it an obstacle, an attitude or even a shadow – but it is something else altogether to seek a reason for its existence. Treating a symptom may provide temporary relief but it will not resolve the reason the symptom exists. Ignoring a grinding noise in your car (or turning the radio up so you cannot hear it) will not resolve the problem UNTIL you are no longer able to stop because your brakes have failed (though that WILL stop the grinding). Choosing NOT to talk to someone that bothers you may reduce your interactions with them but will not help establish a healthy, productive environment.
Life is full of alternative perspectives. Two people seeing or experiencing the same thing will often realize different realities. The key to life – to determining whether the “glass is half empty or half full” when observing a conflict or choice situation – can be found within each individual’s attitudes, aptitudes and motivation. More than being an optimist or a pessimist, our intentional actions (and intended reactions) determine the likelihood of our success – of our ability to lead or be led and our acceptance of “what is” or our insistence upon “what could be.” Become who you CAN be (rather than being content with who you were before you became who you are) if you seek to advance – to make a difference in your life AND the lives of those around you. Do not hide in the shadows – become the light that creates opportunity out of darkness. Do not find comfort in your efforts – seek the potential your abilities offer. Measure all that you have gained (rather than marking and recording all you have lost) and you will find that the glass is not only half full – it can actually be filled to overflowing so that others can benefit from your excess (rather than suffering from your limitations).