Life’s not perfect. Stuff hits the fan. Things go wrong. Miscommunication happens. People mess up. You mess up. For most people, there are pretty much endless opportunities to feel “down” or “bad” about some or all of your work and your life.
You can’t avoid them. But you can improve your reaction to them.
Whenever you encounter this inevitable adversity, try some of these effective ways to flip the script from a negative reaction to a positive one:
Faced with disaster, you can consciously focus your attention on some of the positive elements in the situation. No, this is not like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. That’s not going to get you where you want to go.
But you can focus on relevant and helpful positive elements, more like “where are the lifeboats?” and “how can I get me and my loved ones into them?”
There’s plenty of evidence that making this shift, and thereby working with a more positive frame of mind, nearly always leads to greater productivity and success.
Firemen are trained to relax and stay positive in disasters because, most of the time, the situation they’re facing at the scene of a fire or other emergency can’t get much worse. That’s a valuable perspective. No matter what’s going wrong, how bad things are, you can similarly focus on your own training, experience, and competence. These are among the positive elements that will help you turn the situation around, or at least salvage the maximum.
You can also reflect on other situations in your life that are not currently on fire. Itemizing what’s still good in your work and your life not only shifts your mood more toward happiness, it produces feelings of gratitude, which are another important bulwark against negativity.
Notice the Dips
One of the most important ways to flip the script toward positive is to catch your slide toward negativity in its earliest stages. This allows you to take remedial actions before the negative feelings become firmly established.
One trick is to watch your behavior for negative indicators. These include:
- Unfriendly or short-tempered remarks or actions,
- Less than your usual tolerance, good will, or sense of humor,
- Body aches, headaches, or other “somaticizing” issues,
- Any negative words or deeds that are out of character for you.
Aside from these indicators of negativity, you may exhibit your own, more personal signs.
Another helpful tactic is to accurately describe what you’re feeling. For example, it’s good to be able to recognize “I’m feeling short-tempered.” It’s better to elaborate along the lines of “I’m feeling short-tempered because they’ve dumped a ton of extra work on me, and I’m now facing a deadline I can’t meet.”
Once you’ve noticed the dip, you can take appropriate steps to curtail your down-trending thoughts and feelings
Take a Positive Step
Having noticed your negativity and identified at least one reason for it, you’re in a solid position to start the remedial process. Just as every journey begins with a single step, the road toward positive mental attitude begins with some kind of concrete action.
Your first step toward positivity may include:
- Formulating an action plan,
- Marshalling needed resources,
- Assembling a helpful team,
- Making a simple decision about what to do first.
This first step need not be large. Nor does it need to completely solve whatever problem is dragging you down. It simply needs to be a step in the right direction.
It’s surprising how big a role your expectations play not only in your thoughts and feelings, but in your ability to produce desired outcomes.
If you set expectations too high, you invite disappointment, frustration, and fear of failure.
If you set them too low, you eliminate opportunities for feelings of satisfaction and success.
When you’re in the midst of a difficult situation that’s bringing you down, it’s a good idea to rethink your expectations and revise them in the direction of basics:
- What’s the minimum acceptable outcome in this difficult situation?
- What are the simplest actions you can take in that direction?
- How much slower can you go in striving toward that goal?
- What is the nearest milestone you can aim for, enroute to that goal?
Focusing on the basics often sets the stage for turning around a deteriorating situation and possibly even chalking up a “win.”
These and other efforts to flip the script are solid, sensible responses to the difficult, disheartening situations we all face from time to time. They are a specific reflection of the time-honored advice to get back up after life knocks you down.
You knew that before, of course, and now you have some techniques to help you do it.
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