The Perils of Being a ‘Glass Half Empty’ Person

I have come to accept that I am a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person. When I was first asked this question many years ago, I didn’t think much of it. But over the years, i have come to realize my tendencies and watch out for its pitfalls.

‘Glass half empty’ people operate from the mindset of minimizing loss. Given two options with different level of risks, they (including me) select options where the possibility of loss is less. In most situations it is the same as maximizing for success. Except when its not. Here is an example, and we’ll look at how ‘glass half empty’ people and ‘glass half full’ people might approach it differently.

10 years or so ago, I was hiking in the Appalachian Trail in the smoky mountains. I was hiking up the trail towards a peak that the hikers that I had met raved about. There came a moment on my hike that I realized that I was running low on water. I had estimated that I still had somewhere between 2–4 miles to climb, but I couldn’t be sure. I had lost track of how far I had come.

I had to decide whether to keep on climbing or turn around and head back to the town, where I could get water. When I analyzed the situation, i reasoned that if I continued, I might reach the peak but there was a very chance that I will run out of water and start dehydrating and suffer. On the other hand, if i turned back, i would not risk running out of water and dehydrating. I turned back and never saw that peak or view.

This happened 12 years ago, and the memory has stuck with me ever since. I have lamented my decision may times over during these 12 years. But the bigger implications of how that reflected my mindset have only recently started becoming evident to me. How many times, in my life, have I eliminated my chances of success by making a decision that minimized / eliminated my chance of failure? Its a question I ask myself quite often. And while I have not transitioned to a ‘glass half full’ person, i have become much aware of situations where my natural tendency for loss minimization eliminate my chance of seeing any success.

Playing a game where there is a distinct chance of losing, glass half empty people avoid playing the game. That way, they minimize their chances of loss. But in the course of doing that, the completely eliminate their chance of winning. Glass Half People think as follows: If you don’t play the game, there is no chance you will win. Glass Half Empty people think as follows: If you don’t play the game, there is no chance you will lose.

Do you relate to this? Is there a story that you have that falls into this category, be it your personal or professional life? Please share it with us.