Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full Here?

I was showing a friend the other day my Accord’s rather primitively glued mirror and telling him the story behind it, which reminded me that I had been wanting to write about that story, because it’s an example of using one of my favorite stress management techniques yesterday: Instant Perspective.

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I facetiously call Instant Perspective my All Purpose Stress Management Cleaner because it can be used in just about any situation you feel stressed…or to be more precise, any situation you create stress.

Remember, stress is not “out there”. It’s something we create by our thoughts, our beliefs, and our perspective.

With the Instant Perspective Technique, you can go from stress to calm—or at least calmer—when you’re feeling frustrated, embarrassed, irritated, or any stressful emotion.

Here’s what happened….

I was driving to an appointment in downtown Portland, when I heard a thump on my left window and door.

When I turned my head, I was greeted by the sight of my lime green Yak Board pressed against my window. The high winds must have caught it and flung it over the side.

David Lee on Yak Board

The Yak Board During Happier Times

This was disturbing because I was already running a bit late for my appointment—something I’m loathe to do—and this was going to make me quite late, and I didn’t have the person’s number.

It was also disturbing because I could see cars coming down the ramp toward me. At first, my primary worry was that there was no shoulder to pull off of, and that I would back up traffic as I got the kayak back up on top.

I then could see that they could squeeze around me. So inconveniencing people wasn’t going to be a challenge.

Not getting hit was going to be a challenge.

My annoyance level increased when I realized I couldn’t muscle the door open with the Yak Board pressing it closed. I also had the passenger seat and floor filled with items I had picked up from running errands, so I had to fling those in the back seat, crawl over my stick shift and get out the passenger door. At this point, I’m muttering to myself.
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After squeezing out the passenger side, running around to the driver’s side of the car and assessing the situation, it was clear I was in for an interesting time. I was going to have to lift the kayak up, readjust the J racks—those are the kind that hold the kayak up on its side.

Exhibit B: Kayak resting securely on J Rack

This required loosening and then retightening the wing nuts, while holding onto the kayak and hoping the wind doesn’t blow it over the other side of the car and shear off the mirror. Having taken out a mirror with a kayak on a previous car, I knew that was not a low-cost mistake.

As this drama unfolds, I caught myself thinking “What a drag this is. Now I’m REALLY going to be late. I don’t have Felicia’s number, I’m getting wet out here in the rain, blah, blah, blah.”

Then, I whipped out my “bottle of All Purpose Stress Management Cleaner.” More specifically, I used the Glass is Half Full version of Instant Perspective and thought:

“Hey, be thankful that this didn’t happen while you were tooling down I-295 at 65 MPH. Think of what could have happened. The Yak Board very likely would’ve yanked the roof racks off and you could’ve caused others to crash and die. So be thankful that this happened while you were driving slowly down the exit ramp.”

So with that little reminder that the glass really was half full–I was truly lucky that the Yak Board flipped over when it did–I was able to get a grip, and not make the situation into a bigger deal than it truly was.

Shifting your emotional state into a more reasonable, calm one brings consequences that extend far beyond not ruining our mood in the moment.

Since our lives are made up of many individual moments—and those moments accumulate—each potentially stressful situation we derail keeps us from creating stress biochemicals that, if produced often enough, will create serious health problems.

So here’s my recommendation for you when you find yourself in a situation that you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or put out by, ask yourself “How can I look at this from my Glass Is Half Full perspective?”

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