The Power of Realistic Thinking

And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking. -Barbara Ehrenreich

The optimist will say that the glass is half full. The pessimist will say it is half empty. Both will be wrong. The glass is actually full, half water and half air. That is called realistic thinking. It doesn’t eliminate half of reality just because it isn’t valued.

The optimist and the pessimist will agree with the statement, “There are two sides to every coin.” But the realist will know they are both wrong, there are three sides to every coin. Again, realistic thinking doesn’t eliminate part of reality just because it isn’t valued.

Realistic thinking knows that good and bad are a part of life, focusing on either is a type of blindness. Good and bad are also subjective, they exist nowhere else but in the mind of the beholder.

There is an old Zen story. There was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” replied the old farmer.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” said the old farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the old farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” replied the old farmer.

Published by

Jay N. Forrest

Zen Humanist Teacher.