January 7, 2020
New Year Better You - Appreciating the Good and the Bad
Do you remember that time you (or a loved one) removed the holiday turkey from the oven only to find that it was dry and overcooked? What about the morning you were late for an important meeting because of unexpected weather… or possibly due to a vehicle breakdown? Think about the last time you stepped into a mess left by a discourteous pet owner… it probably felt as if such carelessness was aimed directly at you.
Are these events simply products of bad luck? It often feels as if the universe is simply unwilling to cut us a break. Take a moment to consider the past week. What bad luck did you encounter? What (or who) represented the source of the unfortunate events you experienced over the last several days? It is usually easy to recall at least one unfortunate, unexpected, and seemingly unavoidable challenge recently encountered.
Now, close your eyes and concentrate. Challenge yourself to think about the good luck you have enjoyed over the past week. Can you think of an occasion where things went exactly according to plan? Better than planned? This thought experiment is usually a bit more difficult. Many of us don’t notice, or remember, when things go well. Think about the last time you arrived at a meeting on time, fully prepared, and completely energized. Can you recall the last holiday meal that was perfectly prepared? Have you ever taken a walk and narrowly avoided an unwelcome deposit left by a fiber-fueled furry friend? We have all had these experiences. In fact, these positive events occur more frequently than those that are negative. However, if we fail to adjust our perspective, the memories of fortune afforded by “good luck” are nearly always eclipsed by the scars produced by the “bad luck” we sustain.
So how might we recognize the good amongst the bad? First, it is helpful to forfeit the concept of luck. Luck implies that we have no control over how the surrounding environment stimulates our actions, reactions, and behaviors. Of course, we all regularly encounter obstacles. However, the way we choose to react to (and resolve) challenges is up to us and is fully dependent on the mindset with which we lead.
Before you discount the power of positive thinking, give the following a fair shake. Take a deep breath and release the stresses occupying your mind. Put a big smile on your face even if you don’t feel like smiling. Feel yourself becoming more positive and imagine a state of being that is carefree. Know that things will turn out well, even if you don’t know how this will happen. Choose success, and success is what you will have. As you begin to feel positive, you may find that your positivity grows. If you are able, try pressing your thumb and middle finger of either hand together gently but firmly. Focus on this action, and say to yourself, “I am positive!” (audibly or internally). Again, when you are feeling very positive, press your thumb and middle finger together and say, “I am positive!”
The first time you do this may feel awkward or silly. But understand that you have just programmed yourself with a triggering mechanism that you can use to feel more positive when positivity is needed. Each time you do this you will reprogram yourself with increasing efficacy. Think of this as a reset button. As you practice this exercise, you will find that you can manifest a positive attitude in any situation merely by pressing your thumb and middle finger together and saying, “I am positive!”
Life is filled with roadblocks, hurdles, and obstacles. We all would prefer a clear path in front of us, but we do occasionally encounter obstruction. Everyone is challenged. Although conflict seems terrible when it is first revealed, such events usually present us with opportunities to learn, grow, and evolve. These situations are blessings in disguise. At first, the opportunities may not be easily surmised, but eventually we discover that what initially seems insurmountable is merely a speed bump on the path to success. Often, the friction we encounter is the absolute best thing we could have hoped for.
Frankly, it is not always clear when a challenge represents the “best case scenario” - this is because we are not always afforded the full context of our existence. Returning to our examples above - it is possible that an overdone holiday meal led to an unexpectedly loving and humorous exchange at the dinner table that otherwise would not have happened. That time you arrived late to work may have prevented you from encountering even greater peril at a nearby intersection thirty minutes earlier. When you were forced to change shoes after stepping in Fido’s steaming pile, you may have encountered a positive situation you would otherwise have missed.
To close, as we welcome a new year, try to remember the importance of gratitude. Be thankful for the good and the bad.Appreciate the good and recognize your blessings while also finding time to reconsider the way you approach the bad. Try to be grateful for the experience gained from successfully navigating challenging encounters and recognize that unfortunate events are often blessings in disguise. Consciously appreciate the fortune that is difficult to discern. Know that there will always be obstacles scattered along your path to success. Commit to your goals, despite these challenges, knowing ahead of time that you will succeed.