Perception Dictates Reality: Half Full, Half Empty, or Just a Mimosa?

Some people may look at the image below and see a glass half full, while others may see a glass half empty. And then there are some people (myself included) that see it as an opportunity to add champagne. In reality, this is just a single glass with a liquid inside. Now, how we perceive the amount of liquid is where things get interesting. Yes, we all know this familiar idiom about having a glass half full vs. glass half empty outlook. But, oftentimes perception dictates our reality, and how we view situations can sometimes uncover opportunities we didn’t otherwise know existed.

Perception can influence reality.

As a Peloton enthusiast, I live for a solid 30-minute pop ride. In a short time, I will find myself sweating and breathless, with flames coursing through my legs. As I look to see how much time remains, the timer shows 13:32. Thirteen minutes left?! It’s not until I hear my Peloton coach yell, “It’s 👏 not 👏 that 👏 deep!” that I snap out of my current frame of mind and realize that my ride is already halfway over. The timer exists to keep the workout moving. It is up to me to interpret 13:32 as 13 minutes left or 16 minutes accomplished. That slight shift in perspective can result in a positive outlook for the remainder of the ride.

A positive mindset can have a lasting impact on the long game.

A former colleague and now mentor exemplified what it meant to be an optimist. As a leader within the company, he navigated us through a sea of constant challenges and changes but always remained the wind in our sails. From business transitions to company layoffs to internal restructures, he would reframe every situation as, “This is an opportunity for us to do [X], if only we choose to take it.” Regardless of how impactful the change may have been to the space around us, it was always positioned in a way that energized, empowered, and increased our team morale. Change can oftentimes seem so negative that we lose sight of the opportunities for the future and focus solely on the impact to the present.

Everything’s not always rosy.

Sure, in an ideal world, we would all have this rose-colored perception of life’s unexpected challenges, but we know that isn’t always feasible or possible. On occasion, we are faced with challenges that are high pressure and high risk. There’s so much on the line that it is hard to see the silver lining. We often find ourselves in a reactionary space where any change causes us to immediately weigh the negative effect it has on ourselves or our team.

But, if we can find pause and take a step back, we may discover these disruptions, challenging as they are, may provide otherwise unseen opportunities. A change to scope may allow the team to dive deeper into a feature that would radically enhance the product. Adjustments to a timeline may allow the team to be more nimble. Organizational changes may open a path for you or your team to step in and spearhead the course of the engagement. The opportunities are there if only we choose to see them.

Changing your perception by breaking down challenges to their most basic level.

As we look at the glass of liquid, the liquid can represent a myriad of life’s challenges, from personal to career-oriented to just your everyday adventures. When you break down every challenge to its most basic level, there is just a glass that is filled with liquid. The challenge is to take the opportunity to fill the space above. At the end of the day, however you chose to view your glass, always opt to add champagne.


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