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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Energy Level: Somewhere around a Zero

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant and Strategic Communications Specialist

You wake up on a rainy morning. You didn’t sleep well. Your neck is sore. You’re still tired. It’s cold, raw and, you guessed it, Monday.

Be honest, what was the first reaction you had to reading that scenario? What’s your energy level?

Most people would eloquently respond with “ugh” or “meh.” Some may even quote Office Space, grumbling to themselves, “Someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” and roll over and hit ‘snooze.’

This is Level 1 energy – a feeling of indifference, being disconnected and, to the extreme, playing the victim.

At The Forte Factor, we focus on strengths, optimism, opportunity and potential. These are driven by understanding that performance energy is either productive or unproductive (not good/bad, right/wrong) and that productive performance energy will more successfully use strengths, drive optimism, inspire opportunity and help achieve potential. So, how are you letting your energy level dictate your day?

In Life’s Little Moments, I talk about making the choice to respond positively to potentially frustrating events. Let’s review one of those situations by looking at the reaction vs. the response aligned to the energy funnel.

Situation: You spill something on your shirt right before a big meeting.
Reaction: Frustrated. Angry. Embarrassed. Annoyed.
Energy: Level 2. You allow yourself to feel angry and become irritated. You are more critical, short-tempered and aggravated by little things.
Outcome: The meeting is awkward and uncomfortable. You check the time frequently and keep looking at the door. When a question is directed at you, you reply with a sarcastic comment. When someone says something you disagree with, you offer a valid, yet aggressive, response. Your point is made and you’re assigned the big project you wanted, but now you’re on your own. No one wants to work with you.

Same situation, with a positive energetic response instead of a negative reaction:

Response: Frustrated, but you choose to laugh it off because sometimes these things happen – it’s not personal. You now focus your energy on how to solve the problem by looking for a jacket or scarf to hide the mark, not wasting your energy on being upset. You choose to be confident and don’t call any attention to your mishap before the meeting. It’s done and in your past.
Energy: Level 5. You accept a human moment happened and you enter the meeting with confidence, knowing that what you say and do in the meeting will matter more than the stain on your shirt.
Outcome: The meeting goes incredibly well. You break the tension in the room by laughing off the human moment and segue into the challenge at hand, discussing a few possible solutions. You’re assigned the big project you wanted and have an entire team of people to help. You start brainstorming immediately.

Do you see the difference?

Being aware of your energy enables you to more efficiently manage your emotions. You can intentionally choose an energetic response that is productive that, in turn, can yield more successful results. You move out of habit reaction into thoughtful response. You have what it takes to learn from this moment to make your next moment better.

So let’s rethink that dreary Monday morning wake-up. How will you choose to start your week?

 

Consider reading The Energy Funnel Explained.

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Life’s Little Moments

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant and Strategic Communications Specialist

Life is full of little moments to remember, to laugh at, to share, to take a mental picture and hope you never forget. Sure, life can present you with some incredibly frustrating situations, like:

  • You reach for the chocolate jimmies (or “sprinkles,” if you’re not from Massachusetts) and end up putting parsley flakes on your ice cream instead.
  • You spill coffee on your shirt right before a big meeting.
  • The cover on the salt shaker is loose and you end up pouring salt onto your food.
  • You pour milk in your coffee and discover it has gone bad…after you take your first sip.
  • Your 1-year old insists on feeding himself and gets applesauce all over the kitchen.

How many of these moments can you relate to?

These are moments that can get under your skin and, I admit, there are some days when life’s little frustrations and irritations can certainly push me over the edge. I’m human.

But I have found that what I choose to do in the next moment is what makes all the difference. It is my choice. I can let life’s little moments ruin my day, or I can choose to see the moment as a human event. It’s the difference between reacting vs. responding.

When you pour parsley flakes on your ice cream, take a picture and share with family or friends who will get a kick out of it. And if you’re really craving that ice cream, scoop the parsley out and eat the ice cream anyway.

When your 1-year old gets applesauce all over the kitchen, take a mental picture of the grin on his face and grab your phone to share a picture of the “disaster” with family. Remember, this is a learning experience for him and he’s proud of himself for getting *some* of that food in his mouth by himself. He is, in fact, just [a small] human.

Life is full of little irritating and frustrating moments – you choose if they will make or break your day. And now that you see you have the choice, why would you choose to let them break your day?

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. Imagine a “little moment” when your reaction was a negative one. How did it impact your day?
  2. Think about those you came into contact with that day – your colleagues, your kids, your friends. How did your mood/attitude impact their day?
  3. What could you have done differently in the moment that followed to change your behavior?

I frequently think of Pam and Jim’s wedding episode from The Office. In the car, on their way up to their wedding location, Pam tells Jim a relative suggests taking a mental picture during the day to ensure you don’t forget a great little moment.

So, when life’s little moments present you with something incredible, take the mental picture, especially when those little moments require a deeper look to find that incredible component to remember.

 

Consider reading Catch and Release.

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