Has this ever happened to you…?
You wake up in a great mood and think “today is going to be a great day!” You look forward to what’s ahead and you’re excited about the day.
You discover your dog pooped in the living room and you get to clean it up.
Your daughter tells you that she’s got a major school project due in two days that she hasn’t even started yet and she needs your help. Then she gets mad at you for lecturing her about procrastinating.
Your spouse reminds you that you have a dinner obligation (that you totally forgot about) tonight. You dread the thought of having to fight rush hour traffic to get there after work.
You think to yourself with mild irritation “so much for pizza and Netflix tonight.”
Your good mood rapidly diminishes. You can’t wait to get out of the house and get to the office “the day will be better once I get to work,” you think.
After dropping the kids at school, you try to get back that feeling that you had first thing this morning. You turn on your favorite song and begin to rock out on your way to work.
Traffic comes to a dead stop. It takes you 15 extra minutes to get through the stop light and you know you’re going to be late for work. You think “Did everyone forget how to drive?! What is wrong with people?!” You honk angrily several times at other cars cutting into your lane.
By the time you finally arrive to the office, your good mood has been replaced with stress and frustration. It’s at that point that the department director stops by your desk to let you know that the deadline for the project you’ve been working up has been moved from next Tuesday to tomorrow. You sign heavily and barely conceal an eye roll. You’ve barely even started on it! You think to yourself, “Why can’t anyone plan accordingly? First my daughter, now my boss. Life would be so much better if people just stuck to the plan.”
The fact of the matter is, life rarely goes the way we plan. But rather than accepting the challenges that arise like dog poop and deadlines, we view them as detours in our otherwise perfect path. We tell ourselves “Once this project is completed, work will get back to normal.” Or “As soon as the dog is trained, the house will be more peaceful.” In reality, once these problems are solved, there are dozens more waiting to take their place.
What if those stressful moments are really an opportunity to get stronger? What if we thought about deadlines, dog poop and traffic as resiliency building opportunities in disguise?
There is a way to turn stress into strength and it begins with you.
The next time you experience one of life’s many challenges, ask yourself the following questions:
What is my role in this situation? Am I helping or hindering?
While we don’t have the ability to wave a magic wand to change the behavior of others, we can modify our own behavior. Circumstances don’t dictate your behavior-you’re in charge of that. So, the next time you’re in a traffic jam ask yourself, “is laying on the horn really helping the situation? Is it going to make traffic move any faster?”
What is my next best move from here?
None of us have the power to go back in time and change anything. Our circumstances are what they are in any given moment. We can’t go back in time to correct a mistake, or leave the house earlier to beat traffic or start a project sooner. But we always have a choice: What am I going to do next? You don’t have to be a victim of circumstance. The next time you experience one of life’s challenging moments, YOU can decide you next best move forward.
I encourage you to try this for the next week. Notice your role in a situation and make a conscious choice of what you are going to do next. Notice the different it makes in your stress levels and your interactions with others.
Let me know how it goes!