As I get older I started to realize something about myself. I’m not a particularly talented individual. But if there is one thing that I’m good at, it’s being positive. Really. I’m not afraid to toot my own horn when it comes to the department of positivity.
Growing up I was told I was young and naïve. My mom would say in Cantonese “Sai gan heem ngok,” which translates to “the world is frightful and dangerous. This didn’t make sense to me, though. The world that occurred to me seemed quite the opposite of that.
Negativity Long Since Glamorized
Media and Hollywood have done a really great job glamorizing negativity. If you’ve ever watched TV, you’ll have noticed that the cool kids are mostly the ones that are pissed off at everyone. I tried doing this myself. I tried acting all angry at everyone at everything, in an attempt to be one of the cool kids. It was terribly uncomfortable. Ridiculous. I gave up and went back to being my young, naïve, yet happy self.
On the bright side, I really feel like we have progressed as a society. The negativity and martyrdom that used to be cool growing up is now passé. The new cool is strength, confidence and being positive about yourself. Dove and Coca-Cola are fine examples of this.
But, let’s face it. Every now and then, though something traumatic happens to you. Your world is thrown off balance occasionally. It may be as big as a death in the family. It may be as small as missing the bus.
Every event has the potential to play a factor in how your live out your day. But ultimately, the final decision rests with you and only you. Allow me to illustrate.
Tools to Pick Yourself up
I live in a city where we normally get snow by Halloween (October 31), for those of you unfamiliar with this North American tradition. This year, however, snow came early,… on Thanksgiving (mid-October). 24 hours later, I found myself standing at a bus stop early Friday morning slowly turning into a popsicle, waiting for a bus that never came.
I eventually got to work, having caught the next bus a whole half hour later. I thought to myself: This day has the potential to go really south, what with the slightly traumatic events of the morning. My next thought was, “Wait a minute. How this day goes solely depends on me, not the snow, not the popsicle factor. Me.”
So I made a detour to the gym facility in our building. Sat down on a mat, and gathered my thoughts. This is actually an integral part of my morning routine. But on this day, just when I finished thawing, my few moments of meditation was even more crucial.
The Day is Still Full of Possibility
I believe that ultimately, what kind of day you have depends on the intention that you set for it from the start. Having just experienced the trauma of missing the bus (though insignificant), I could either play into the self-pity and how awful it was to stand there for 30 minutes in the freezing cold. Or… my other option was to figure out a way to still have a really great day. I chose the latter. (Did you even have to question that?) Yea, sure, Cat. Much easier said than done. Ok. What if I gave you some tools to practically do this, the next time you have something crazy happen to you?
Silver Linings in Small Things
After my meditation, I started to feel like I just hit the reset button. Nothing was either great. Nor was it terrible anymore. This in itself was progress. I was on my way to my first meeting and stopped by the kitchen to grab a quick coffee. There it was. Nestled quietly on the cup shelf was a dainty pink, shiny coffee cup.
Admiring its tidy gold and white spots, I took it into my hand and instantly felt an unexpected little surge of happiness. As I watched it fill with hot, fresh coffee, I felt my ‘happiness meter’ rise. How simple! I was surprised at the effect of a hot cup of coffee in a pretty little cup can make on a girl. I smiled. Now I was ready for my meeting.
Lesson learned: Often it doesn’t take a huge victory to create a little surge of happiness in our lives. Pay attention to the little things. This is funny. In my previous blog post “6 Ways Not to Sweat the Petty Things” I just told you NOT hang onto every detail. This is different. This is how you would clean yourself off when you’ve emerged from a tub of crap. Find the silver lining in the little things. Pay attention to things that make you happy… which is a perfect segue way to my next point.
Do what you Need to do to Feel Good
I’ve mentioned before that one of my all-time favorite books is Beyond Positive Thinking, by Dr. Robert Anthony. In it, he shares a trick to come back from a negative state of mind. Think of the first good thought that warms your heart…. That makes you feel good. It could be the day your baby was born. Remember how you heard the tiny cry for the first time? Remember the tears of joy that ran down your cheek as you held that new little being close in your arms for the first time? Or it could be the day you figured out that your significant other was the one. Remember those butterflies you felt in your stomach? Whatever that first good thought is, hold it in your mind for at least 17 seconds. It’s no hard, fast rule, but hold it there for about that long. Something magical starts to happen. You really do feel the stress, the tension melt away.
Turn it Around with Gratitude
I like this one a lot. If you stop and think about any given situation, there are always multiple sides to a story. Rewind to the point where I was standing there like a popsicle waiting for that bus. Cold, shivery, pissed off. On the other hand, I was taking the bus to work because I couldn’t justify driving into the office. I live less than 5km away. I’m grateful for that. You know what else I’m grateful for? Having such an agreeable way to make a living such that I can feed my family. I am a professional IT consultant. I write my own ticket. I take on work when I want to do so. I take my vacation when I want to do so. I’m grateful for this. Here’s where the magic started. As soon as I moved the focus from ‘poor me, the popsicle’ to “sure I’m cold, but I’m grateful for all of this, and I’ve been through far worse and survived” I moved on. Not a big deal. Why let this one sole even rule your day? This has got to be one of my favorite ways to disarm a negative frame of mind. I love it because it works every single time.
Positivity Begets Positivity
What determines how your day, how your life will go aren’t those meaningless physical events in your life. Quit playing into them! You’re the only casualty. It’s the choice that you make when you set the direction of your day. A happy life is simply a string of happy days, traumatic events followed by a u-shaped turnaround of the upward trend that follows. But remember. You hold the key.
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