How to Make the Most of Tough Situations

So many times in life, we get irritated, aggravated or stuck by what is going on. It could be the back-up on the highway that has you sitting in traffic. It could be rain on a day you planned a family backyard outing. It could be the promotion that was given to another employee.

These are examples of life events that sometimes don’t go our way. And for many, this starts or continues the downward spiral of disappointment and knee-jerk reactions. With this mindset, you can only focus on what is lacking or disappointing about life or work.

Those who experience these frustrations, aggravations and disappointments in life can take it out on themselves with negative self-talk or negative behaviors (i.e. drinking, buying things to feel better), or they can take it out on others by being short, critical or downright mean.

I get it. You feel bad when things don’t go your way. We all do. It’s how you manage these feelings and behaviors that helps you both stay productive and be happy, regardless of what work or life sends.

As a coach, I see this situation a lot. Blocks, challenges and disappointments are frequent reasons people approach me for coaching. They want to develop ways to navigate around these challenges and blocks so they can feel more in control, better able to perform at their job or be more present in their relationships. They don’t want to be activated by the negative events that can sometimes be part of our days. They want to be responsive instead of reactive. These are all things coaching can help with.

To help yourself out of being frustrated, aggravated or irritated, and some of the negative feelings behviors like this can inspire, consider this one-two approach that I share with my clients.

  1. Stop and notice what you are feeling. Give it a name. Label the emotion and why you are feeling it. It could be I am frustrated because this traffic is going to add an additional 30 minutes to my commute. It could be I am disappointed in myself for not being more confident and enthusiastic in my interview, so I was passed over for the promotion. It could be I am aggravated that all the great work to create the fun backyard party will go unnoticed now that it is in the garage. With these, you become clear of what you feel and why you feel it.
  2. Ask “How can I turn this into something good?” This starts to shift the energy off the hurt, disappointment and other catabolic emotions and on to more positive outcomes. How else could I use my time in the car since I am stuck in this traffic back up? How can I be more prepared for the next promotion opportunity? How can we have fun together regardless if we are outside in the backyard or in a garage? Change the energy. Change the focus. See what’s possible with what you have instead of what you wanted.

There is always more right than wrong if we learn to focus on what’s possible or what else could be done to turn anything from down to up. How you show up to the events of life is up to you. You can be down when they don’t go your way, or you can say, since this is what is going on, what else could happen here? What good things are possible now?

Take Action
This week, stop and notice when you are frustrated, aggravated or irritated. Understand it. Then shift it. Ask, “how can I turn this to good?” Soon the frustrations and their negative cousins of aggravation and irritation will hang around less. They will be replaced with contentment, acceptance and even happiness. I see it happen all the time.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Managing Your Self-Talk

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See the Bigger Picture

Most of us have tunnel vision. We primarily focus on what is right in front of us, if we even really focus at all. We get caught up in the pace of the day and the moments blur one into another. Soon, we look at our watch and the day has passed. Did we make progress on things that matter or did another day just make us run in place? We miss seeing that this moment is always part of something larger.

Blinders up so you can't see what's happening around you.

You can only change what you notice. It requires awareness, attention and intention to step back and  gather the expanded perspective to ensure you are moving forward in a way and in a direction that matters.

Author Stephen Covey reminds us in Habit #2 of his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, to “begin with the end in mind.”

Start by getting clear of the goal or direction. Then stand back. See the big picture. Stepping back and allowing yourself to see the full landscape helps you see what things will encourage or interrupt what you want to achieve. Though it is good to really focus on achieving a goal, many talented people get blindsided by the things they didn’t take the time to notice that could affect their direction or plan. Their success gets interrupted by something that was completely manageable – if they had learned to step back and make time to see the bigger picture.

Here are some bigger picture questions to reflect on:

  1. What is one thing I need to work on to help me be more effective at work, in my relationships, etc.?
  2. What would make this year happy and successful for me?
  3. Who has left a great impression on me and why?
  4. What is one thing that could interrupt my progress on a specific goal?
  5. What am I not asking or seeing that I should focus on?
  6. How am I making a difference with the people in my life?
  7. How am I developing gratitude and appreciation for my successes?
Habit #2 from Stephen Covey's book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the end in mind

Stop and notice if you make time to see the larger view of things. Stop and notice if you go through work and life more reactive than responsive, jumping into decisions instead of taking the time to better understand the situation and see it from multiple perspectives before choosing how to move forward to improve your outcomes.

Take Action
What areas in work and life would benefit from a larger view? Create context to minimize an issue or raise it in importance because of the expanded perspective. This requires you to step back to expand your view in order to gather information. Make the time to get more information so you can make your best and wisest decision. See the full picture.   

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Something Just Happened and You Asked, “Now What?”

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