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Lessons From the Glass

“Is the glass half full or half empty?” The question is typically intended to reveal something about your worldview. Are you an optimist (half full) or a pessimist (half empty)? Do you see opportunity in the abundance that the glass holds or trouble in the scarcity? A familiar and simple idiom, but one that I think offers more than the one dimensional illustration we are accostomed to.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. – William Shakespeare

Almost all conflict is a result of violated expectations. – Blaine Lee

What does the glass say about your expectations? I heard a message recently on expecations using a hotel room as an illustration. If you booked a hotel room that was described as a lavish presidential suite and arrived to find a typical room, it would fall short of  your expectations and you would be disappointed. If you were prepared for a barren windowless room with a wooden cot and were pleasantly surprised by that typical hotel, your expectations would be exceeded and you would be happy. The same average hotel room, but whether or not you feel grateful or disappointed is determined entirely by your expectations.

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The volume of the contents (like the quality of the hotel room) doesn’t change and the glass now represents your expectations. With this perspective the answer to the “half full or half empty?” question would be neither, rather that the glass is too big or small. With gratitude and realistic expectation your glass is overflowing, a sense of entitlement and high expectation may make your glass look pretty empty.

The third and likely most important lesson from the glass has nothing to do with the volume of its contents or the size of the vessel, it is all about you. If you are drinking from the glass and depleting its contents you are heading toward emptiness. If you are pouring into the glass, if you are serving, you are on the way toward fulfillment. You choose to consume toward scarcity or provide toward abundance.

Service brings satisfaction. – James Cash Penney

Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich. – Sarah Bernhardt

Three lessons; see the fullness of your glass, be realistic in your expectations (the size of the glass) and accept the contents of your glass with gratitude, and be the one who fills the glass for others.


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