By Gina Olson
Using the familiar question “Is the glass half empty or half full?” what do you think? Is the glass half empty, is it half full, or is the glass something bigger than a glass? Does this “glass” change shape sometimes? Maybe it expands to the size of an ocean or maybe rainwater can change the level of water inside the glass. Maybe the glass cracks and loses all of the water. Maybe it isn’t really a glass. Perhaps, this glass is an old mercury thermometer. Every time you look at a metaphorical glass or a different issue in your life, maybe your outlook is sometimes positive and negative at other times.
Regardless of whether you have a positive attitude and think negatively or project a negative attitude and think positively, or have an entirely different attitude, everyone experiences positive and negative thoughts. Until recently, I’ve thought of myself as a pessimist. I always assume the worst outcome—I’ll fail my exam, I’ll be hated, someone will submerge this article in their half-full glass and start grinning. Still, even when I think of the worst possible outcome, sometimes I have another part of me, almost another personality, encouraging me to try my best and “think positive.”
Positive thinking is a very ambiguous term. It also seems relative. Positive thinking, like happiness, is unique to each person. For someone considered an optimist, “I’ve studied, so I’ll do great on the exam” may represent positive thinking. The uncertain, fearful-of-the-worst pessimist might say, “Well, I guess I have a chance of not failing. I studied my best; I should do okay.” Though a bit dramatized, for different people thoughts like “I’ve done this, so I can…” and “I did my best” help direct them towards more positive thoughts. To think positively doesn’t ensure that exam stress, relationship worries, and anxiety will leave you. Instead, it means you will continue to counter your negative thoughts. (This kind of thought process is something I’ve recently started, and recommend—especially as exam weeks approach.) You won’t not encounter negative thoughts. You will encounter them. Transform your “should’ve,” “could’ve,” “would’ve” phrases into “tries,” “wills,” “cans,” “dos,” and “ables”.
Personally, writing helps me counter the negative feelings I experience. Just by writing this article, I have pushed away some negativity. For those who would rather not write about their feelings, I recommend talking. Talk to your friends. If a friend continues to speak negatively, maybe you’re able to change his or her attitude. Knowing you can help your friends see the positives of a situation should give you courage; your friends can help you find positives and you can eventually find positives in your own situations.
The process of positive thinking may annoy you. You may become very, very angry at the metaphorical glass and want to hurl it into something or someone. You may find low points and high points in your “outlook on life,” but this is okay. Change scenery, talk with your friends, write out your problems and find solutions, and find your own positives. As Walt Whitman said, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.”