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Half full or half empty?

[ 2010-10-12 13:43]     字号 [] [] []  
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Half full or half empty?Reader question:

“With us the glass is half full rather than half empty.” What does that mean?

My comments:

They are optimistic. Those of “us” are able to look at the brighter side. That’s what it means.

In other words, they’re just not going to be disappointed when they see a glass that is filled to the halfway line.

My baby niece, when she was two or three that is, was not one of these people. I observed that whenever she asked for a glass of water and you poured her half a glass she refused to take it every single time.

“More,” she would demand. You filled the cup to two thirds. “Still more,” she demanded. You had to fill the glass to the brim. That’s when she was satisfied – She would take two gulps and leave the rest of the glass alone, and never touch it again.

After observing this, and similar scenes, a few times, I decided that my cute little niece had, among other things, formulated the idea of “more is better”. The more the merrier it is, in fact, for her.

She had not formulated the concept of “enough is enough”, but that is for another day, I thought.

Or another year, for that matter.

Or another decade or even lifetime.

You see, for example, it took Bill Gates and Warren Buffet half a life to understand this. With them (and some other extremely rich fellas), half is more than enough.

Otherwise they would never be willing to give half of their wealth away, I assure you.

So what the fuss?

Why the trouble, you wonder. Why accumulate so much wealth in the first place if they have to give half of it away afterward? Why not stop half way in their tracks in the first place? Why not stop making money and do something else with their time when they were, say, emerging billionaires or merely multi-millionaires?

Well, these nitpicking questions you’d better keep to yourself. My position is, it’s their money and theirs to dispose of any way they please.

The point of argument here is, clearly, more is not always better. When my niece’s little tummy is full of food for instance, it’s not better to keep feeding her food. She won’t let you do. This much she knew, ever since she’s old enough to know to ask for food, which is the very beginning, of course.

Sorry, we drifted too far, I’m afraid.

The real point of this article is to observe the glass when it’s half filled. And so let’s get back to the glass.

Now, the glass is 50 percent filled. Alright, if you focus on the water, you’ll see the glass as half full of water. If you focus on the empty space in the upper half, on the other hand, you’ll see that the glass is half empty.

Either conclusion is correct.

However, psychologists believe that if you’re one of those people who see the glass as half full, you’re an optimistic person, one who has a happy outlook on life. You see work done, in other words, and take heart from your achievements.

Conversely, if you see the glass as half empty you to have a pessimistic view of things. In other words, you don’t see your achievements, just what’s left undone.

Just the other day, someone asked me whether the following statement reflects an optimistic view, or a negative or fatalistic one:

“If the world gives you lemon, try to make lemonade.”


Or rather realistic, I think. The focus is on what you have rather than what you don’t have. That’s a good starting point any time, anywhere.

On the other hand, the pessimist or fatalist might say: “Not again! I knew it’d be lemon all the time. I’ll never be able to produce any apple juice. I knew it and I’ll never be any good. I’ll never make it.”

Well, what do you think?



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Turn the corner

Core values?

Under the radar?

Hard wired?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)