That glass with water in it to a 50% capacity mark

There is almost always an opportunity to be unhappy. Life can be brilliantly beautiful and yet an individual can still choose to find how horrible things are or will become. I’m not talking about depression, but rather the poor cognitive habit that people can develop that turns them into pessimists.

Often, pessimists might claim they are not pessimists but realists. They understand the risks that may come in a particular situation and want to be cautious. They might feel that optimism is for the young, naive, and delusional. However, being realistic is an interesting claim to make, because optimism and pessimism aren’t about the facts but the interpretation and desire behind those facts.

If we were being realistic, the glass that’s either half full or half empty exists in a context. Maybe you filled it up to the top and have drunk half of it. If you want more of the drink, you’d be more inclined to call it half empty. If you wanted less of it, you’d be more inclined to call it half full.

There’s also social convention at play; how many people legitimately refer to a cup as half full? The statement may or may not actually reflect the optimism/pessimism of the individual who says it.

In order to be ‘realistic’, one has to acknowledge both the opportunities and risks with a course of action. A pessimist might miss the opportunity, an optimist might miss the risks. It’s rarely a boon to be on the extreme either way in the long run.

In some ways, the question of glass-half-full or half-empty is a question of trust. It’s an indication of how a person feels the world around them is worthy of their trust. Do they want to blindly trust others or shut themselves off? Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

However, my focus is on pessimism because people are rarely consistently too optimistic. It’s good to be careful, but fear can go overboard very easily. Gratitude is the best way to help temper our habits of becoming too shut down. Of course, things can go wrong. At least one thing always will, life is unpredictable. The truth of the matter is that we need to be careful in watching why we’re being careful.

Are assuming the worst because you are afraid? Are you assuming the worst because you’ve been hurt before? For those who claim to be realistic, are you actually taking probability into account, or are you making an interpretation separate from the stats?

 

the spending habits of the soul

We exist in a world of cost. To get to the Olympics, for example, means a huge amount of cost. The participants and those around them sacrifice their time, their effort, their lives to this competition. The food we eat and the things we use every day all require something of us. That usually translates into money, which we receive from sacrificing time to engage in a task that pays us. While economics seems to be incredibly dull from the outset, it’s actually a surprising study of life itself. Economists question how, why, where we get the things we do, and how, why, and what we do with those things afterward. It’s amazingly connected to psychology in that they use how people think and have acted to predict how they will act. But how does this relate to us on a practical level?

Practically, economists are running the organization of our entire society. They help orchestrate the massive plan holding everything together. But in other ways, knowing about economists doesn’t do much to change our lives.  Knowing about the importance of people who study boring maps and graphs doesn’t inspire the ability to change oneself. What it does do, is highlight how important it is to life that we know what we are giving up. The real, tangible way to make use of the concept we live in a world of cost? Being reasonable.

“Being reasonable” is a phrase that tends to get a bad reputation from the most artistic people of the world. It gets translated into, “Don’t aim for lofty goals”. However, it can be better translated and used to mean, “Don’t aim for lofty goals all at once.” If you set achievable small goals, reasonable small goals, they can eventually build its way up to those big goals. Furthermore, “being reasonable” also makes us aware that we have limited quantities of time and effort. If all of our choices can be related to cost, then we can learn to find better ways to spend our time. It might be terrifying to isolate things down to cost, and surely not everything can, but why live prodigally and miss your best self by a lack of calculation?