Is the glass half full or half empty? I would describe myself as a glass half full kind of person. I am always looking for what is right, what is working, and what I feel good about. Even in the most stressful or tough situations, I am trying to think of a positive outcome. My partner once jokingly told me that if I was on a plane and the captain told everyone that the plane was going down, I would probably find something positive to say. So what is it that makes some of us see the positive while others meet life’s challenges with a negative perspective? Can someone change from a glass half full to the glass is half empty? Is one better than the other?
I was speaking with a student during our last day of school, thinking back at the progress they had made during the school year. I felt that this student had made a lot of progress during the school year. I met a person in August who was scared, withdrawn, and unwilling to reach out to make new connections at a new school. This student had moved a lot, and felt like this school wouldn’t last long, since the others didn’t, so what was the point in trying to make new friends. Though I could empathize and understand their point of view, I know that having a negative view on a new school could set this student up for a lonely and sad school year, with very little or no friends. However, a positive point of view might help her believe in the possibility of a good friendship, and take actions that would increase the chance of her meeting new people.
So, was their school year really good or am I just trying to make everything sound like good news? I asked her to think back and tell me about friends she had made, activities they had been involved in, and our school as a whole. Did the school year turn out better than expected? Again, I was expecting, to hear her talk, at least a little, about the good things that had happened. What did she tell me? That it was not all that great. What?!?! Was I experiencing a different student? Was the year really as bad as they had said? I had seen positive growth and development. I had witnessed the beginning of new friendships. I had seen this person play and laugh and be a care free kid with other kids at school. However, I also remembered conversations throughout the year where this student had issues with other kids at school. However, from my point of view, overall, the school year was good. Why is it that I saw the good and this student still clung to the negative?
During both individual counseling and classroom guidance lessons, I often talk to kids about the power of thinking positive. I see in my students both types of people. I see those kids who handle stress or a problem with a determination and belief that we can make it better. I also see those kids who are convinced that things will not work out and they might as well give up. Even though I know that being a positive person is not always the best, and sometimes having a glass is half empty attitude is healthy, I still always come back to the idea that it is more psychologically healthy to look on the bright side than the dark side. When I do get into a mood where everything seems wrong and/or impossible, things get worse instead of better. However, when I look to the bright side, even in a tough situation, I find that before too long, I am back feeling good and finding something to celebrate.
David McCord is a school counselor for Montgomery County Public Schools. His theoretical interests are in solution focused theory and play therapy