This week’s column is from guest contributor Becky Pocratsky.
If you missed our previous article about radical acceptance, you might want to go back and read it as it is the perfect diving board for this week’s topic.
News flash: in our lives, bad things happen, even on a daily basis. This week, we will stop and look at how we respond to that outside stimuli. And to that end (and for your enjoyment), here is a quick recap on the “hot mess of a day” I had a couple of months ago.
Not to be a total cliché, but it all started with my car not working on the day of a crucial appointment. Cue me panicking about having to reschedule the appointment (reworking schedules, babysitting, fasting for medical tests, etc., all over again). This was then followed by me knocking on all of my neighbors’ doors in fifteen-degree weather, hoping someone could jump my car, arriving late to my appointment (cringe, I am never late), and failing my gestational diabetes test. Added bonus: since this is my second pregnancy with diabetes, I am now officially pre-diabetic, so this is not just a six-month lifestyle update but a permanent one. And then the icing on the (now sugar-free) cake, after 15 hours of fasting for the necessary bloodwork, I went to grab a coffee, and the coffee machine was broken.
Later, when I shared my harrowing tale with my husband, there was silence for a moment, and then he said, “Wow, you had a horrible day.” And I had to think about it. Yeah… it had been pretty rough, but honestly, it felt more like a very draining adventure.
His comment did spark my curiosity and resulted in me researching what makes a bad day “bad.” It often relies not on the events occurring around us, but on our perspective and attitude. And while it is easy to say “look for the silver lining” or point out that you can choose to have your cup half full or half empty, those platitudes don’t automatically fix our headspace. However, there are countless TED talks and other resources out there that can help us learn to change our mindsets in those trying moments. So, while I thoroughly recommend checking out some excellent TED talks about optimism, I will also share with you some of the highlights from my research.
Optimism is like a muscle.
If this is a new skill that we are trying to tackle, then it will take time to build that muscle. We won’t start seeing the “glass half full” overnight, so give yourself time to gradually work on strengthening it in those challenging moments. Take it slow, and don’t add to your stress.
Acknowledge the things that are going wrong.
Denial will get us nowhere. This is not about sticking our heads in the sand. It acknowledges the bad and says that it is not the whole story. For example, thanks to modern medicine, I got disappointing medical results, but I can do my best to manage it.
Look at the big picture.
Will the things getting under your skin still matter in a week, a month, or a year? For example, if it was pouring and you had to walk several blocks without an umbrella. Feel free to acknowledge how crappy it is right now, but, if it will only be crappy for today, recognize that, too, and feel that weight lift off your shoulders that this is a temporary problem.
Do not assume that this is a new trend.
Once a lousy day starts, it is so easy to expect other bad things to happen. We get a “of course, this would happen today” attitude and fixate on anything negative.
Disrupt the narrative.
If you are in a loop where things are spiraling downhill, take a step away, possibly literally. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Eat something that is both healthy and yummy (No chain scarfing brownies — that will only give you a temporary high. Also, no dry salad, which will only make you grumpier). Break up that negative feedback loop in your brain and body and then come back fresh.
These helpful hints are just the tip of the iceberg for changing our perspectives, but even these little steps can change the way we live. And I get it — the glass-half-full mentality is not always easy. In those rough moments, “pain makes you stronger” can feel like a stupid, pithy comment. But here is one solid fact: we choose to build resilience or become more brittle based on how we respond in those hard moments.
So, friends, the question becomes, what are we going to look at this week? When we have moments of failure or disappointment, will we sit licking our wounds, or will we turn our eyes to the people who are helping us up, the pitfalls we managed to miss and realize the myriad of things for which we can be grateful?
Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Becky Pocratsky is a freelance editor and writer. She works from home with her two sweet (loud, energetic, help me!) daughters. Also she is a super geek who went to Hobbiton on her honeymoon.