Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

The glass analogy is not helpful. A half-full glass might even threaten your life.

Talk about optimism and most people will think of the glass analogy. But what does having a half-full glass really mean?

Is it really optimism - or denial?

For some, it means never facing reality. They won’t go to their doctor to check out a lump, because 'everything will be okay'. Other avoiders believe that going for a health check would suggest they are not optimistic (and they know that successful people are always optimistic).

One irrational optimist once told me he doesn't take out insurance because that would suggest he was expecting to claim, 'and that's a really pessimistic way to look at life'.

Rational optimism and being realistic

For rational optimists, having a glass half-full suggests they believe that, generally speaking, life will work out okay. That general sense of optimism is healthy.

Rational optimists do focus on the positive, but it doesn't stop them facing reality. It doesn't stop them being pessimistic from time-to-time.

Rational pessimism works too

Being pessimistic about achieving a goal, then developing strategies to overcome the hurdles that might arise is a very effective strategy.


Rational optimism is an outstanding characteristic of top performers in any field you care to name.

Finding the balance of rational optimism and rational pessimism is what counts. The half-full glass is too superficial to be useful.

About Ralph Brown

ralph brown blog3

Ralph is our founder. He has a background in psychology, television journalism and business.

Ralph's passions are positive psychology and writing. He leads workshops on both and speaks to conferences on the psychology of thriving at work.

Professional Speakers Australia has awarded him its top speaking accreditation, the CSP. He has since been made a life member of Professional Speakers New Zealand.

He has written six books, six e-books and more than a hundred articles on psychology and writing. International research journals have published his articles reviewing the research on resilience.

Ralph lives in rural Canterbury. He is a JP and marriage celebrant and enjoys travelling to French-speaking countries.

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