"Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it."
   — Buddha

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Is Your Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

This old chestnut, which I believe dates back to an ad for the Peace Corps from the Sixties*, still confuses me. Seriously. If my glass is half full does that mean that it’s a good thing, and if it’s half empty, does that say that I’m a bad person? Or vice versa?

Maybe I drank too much? Beer, wine, whatever. Or maybe you’ve been drinking too much of the “Kool-Aid” if you subscribe to too many of these easy solutions to hard problems.

You should be an optimist in the Warsaw Ghetto in ’43? Sure. I just heard of an incredible story of a woman who managed to escape… without her mother and her memory. But what the hell… You should be an optimist in Tibet with the heavy thumb of the Chinese government pressing down on your neck? Sure. You can always self-immolate yourself.

The Dalai Lama’s solution is to take it one breath at a time, which actually has a lot of merit to it, but since he lives a life of non-attachment, he doesn’t care whether the glass is half full or half empty. So he doesn’t count in this discussion! Sorry Dal.

Today, our MPN Table Topic revolves around the issue of optimism and its role in getting a new job. Americans want to hire people who are optimistic. Who wants a Debbie Downer in the office every day? Which is understandable.

(And how come it’s “Debbie” and not “Donnie”? Another blog…)

I have also read that studies show that pessimists are more frequently right about things. That optimists, in their cheery disregard of reality in favor of their own brand of what’s best for them, miss out on what’s really happening.

No matter. The fact is, sometimes we miss the point of optimism and pessimism. As Bruce R. of MPN said this morning, “Optimism is overrated.” And he’s right. On the other hand, the concept of visualization has grown in popularity over the past few decades and that is a different notion. The idea is that if you take time to actually visualize yourself doing something – like A-Rod hitting a home run in October or a successful business meeting in which you get the order – that it will more likely happen. Don’t ask me how… but it can’t hurt.

Ultimately, whether you are optimistic or pessimistic, as long as you handle the job search in a professional manner and present your best side – for your LinkedIn photo as well as for the hiring manager – you’ll be fine.

Maybe the worst thing about being spoon fed such platitudes as “Is the glass half empty or half full” is that if you feel you must be optimistic – and fail –you’ll feel even worse than when you started!

Why don’t you try to be yourself instead – well, maybe your best self?

Our articles for discussion today were from the NYTimes blog, “Well”:   cf. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/a-richer-life-by-seeing-the-glass-half-full/
and http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/02/how-to-make-optimism-work-for-you-2/

* A quick Google search suggests that the “Glass half full…” phrase goes back even further than the Peace Corps ad, most likely to the 1930s.

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