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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3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Have a Great 2019

By Jay Forte

A new year is just ahead. The best way to continue your successes, or make important changes, is to reflect on 2018 and to use its lessons to see and do things differently in 2019.

I personally find the best way to reflect on most things is by asking questions. Questions guide you to explore and investigate, both of which are important to give you the information you need to determine your direction and plan for a new and great year.

Here are three questions I spend time with at the start of the new year that help me develop greater clarity and a plan to make the most of my time, effort, energy and impact.

1. What are my strengths?

We each come equipped with unique and amazing abilities. These abilities help us to be great at some things and not great at others. Having a successful year requires that I know and lead with my strengths. This knowledge helps me identify the areas in work and life that need what I am best at – I feel capable, confident and competent. Without this information, I may find myself in areas I struggle in, which leads to disengagement, disappointment and frustration – not the way to have a great 2019. Discover, develop and live your strengths in 2019.

2. What is a good day for me?

Each day, we get a blank canvas to add to it in a way that matters to us. We own our choices. Taking the time to reflect on what a good day is for me prepares me; I know what makes a good day for me so I can intentionally look to achieve it. Without this information, I move through life with less intention and therefore don’t make the things happen that really matter to me. Notice the language there as it means I take accountability for having a good day. I work to make good things happen for me, on purpose. Only you know what makes a good day for you; work with intention to make it happen, resulting in a better 2019. Define what makes a good day for you and build a plan to have it.

3. How can I make a difference?

I believe we are here to do more than just show up each day. We are not here just for ourselves; we each have a higher purpose – a requirement to know ourselves and to bring our best to our world to make a difference. Our uniqueness is what enables each of us to contribute something that only we can contribute, and by its contribution, we make our world better. It may be in how we teach, coach or parent. It may be in our ideas or thinking. It may be in our empathy and in the quality of our relationships. It is ours to discover and to live. Reflect on what difference you are here to make in 2019.

A new year is a great time for reflection, and questions are a good way to start the thinking and reflection process. Having a plan helps you navigate the speed and amount of daily change.

Be aware of what you want for yourself as you approach a new year. You are your life’s owner – you have the ability and responsibility to define what you want and the abilities to go get it.

Take action
How will you use these three questions to prepare for – and have – a great 2019?


Consider reading Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

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Are You Rigid or Flexible?

By Jay Forte

Do you remember Aesop’s fable “The Oak and the Reed”? It goes like this.

There once was a mighty oak who shared the bank of a river with a reed. The oak, proud of its strength and ability to stand up to the wind, critiques the reed as weak as even the slightest wind or the weight of a small bird can make it bend. The reed responds that it is not afraid of the wind because it has the ability to bend but not break. The mighty oak dismisses and praises its rigidity just as a strong wind comes and uproots the oak. The reed continues to bend and lives another day. The moral: Those who know how to bend and yield, succeed in life.

I think it’s pretty obvious that most of us are like the oak tree: rigid. Though there are benefits to this, it’s important to recognize that there are also some challenges. For example, when we are rigid, we hold on tightly to things we believe, even if we don’t know why we believe them. If a belief stops you from being your greatest self, or living authentically, or inhibits another person from doing the same, it is defined as a limiting belief.

Before you claim you don’t have any limiting beliefs, take a moment to reflect on this statement: we all have limiting beliefs. Many come from the way we were raised, what we were taught or who we spent (or spend) time with. Without recognizing limiting beliefs, you can find yourself remaining rigid in most situations when being flexible would allow you to accept new information, think more creatively and openly on your feet, update your beliefs and show up more successfully to each moment.

Let’s take a look at some powerful examples.

  1. Think about your political beliefs. How rigid are you in your beliefs about our current situation and your affiliation with one political party or another? How could you be open and flexible to define what you believe and not let others dictate this for you?
  2. Think about your role in the workplace. Where are you rigid in a way that does not serve you? How could being more flexible – more open, more creative, more supportive – to better encourage your performance and effectiveness? How could you encourage and support the ideas and perspectives of others, even if they may be contrary to yours?
  3. Think about your role as a parent. How rigid or flexible are you? How do you create and support meaningful rules for your kids but allow them change as your kids change? How do you involve your kids in establishing family rules and values to [appropriately] accommodate a variety of perspectives? How are you supporting your kids to be the best version of themselves, even if it isn’t in line with what you have planned for them?
  4. Think about your role as a person, in general. Where are you rigid in a way that alienates others? How could you be more flexible to allow others to be who they are instead of who you need or require them to be?

There isn’t one way to do anything; there are a lot of ways. Being rigid just rules out options and results in missing out on the great value others have to offer. To be successful in anything today, it requires you to be agile, flexible and responsive. It’s only with this perspective that you can truly benefit from the value in each moment.

When you stop and notice you, are you like the oak – standing rigid all the time – or are you more like the reed – flexible to accommodate life on life’s terms?

How you live is up to you. Rigid or flexible. It’s your choice.

Important Questions from a Coach:

1. Stop and notice. Are you more rigid in the most important aspects of your life or flexible?
2. What is something you can do today to become more flexible in one area of life that is of particular importance to you (work, relationships, etc.)?
3. What lessons do you need to learn to make each day happier, more successful and more loving?


Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer?

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Acknowledging Emotions

By Kristin Allaben

My grandmother recently passed away. I was, perhaps ironically, already surrounded by family when the news reached us. We gave each other hugs, asked if everyone was ok as we started to process the news, shared memories of our Nonna and shared smiles and laughs through the tears. Everything you’d expect when the news of someone’s passing hits you.

But as I watched my big, loving family give hugs and express concern for each other, it made me realize that I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I’ve experienced the passing of someone I cared about where I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. Are you supposed to be sympathetic? Empathetic? Block out the pain? Embrace it and show every emotion? Is it ok to nervously laugh when someone asks if you’re ok? Is it ok to blink back tears instead of letting them fall freely?

Emotions are big things and, in my opinion, should be acknowledged. Without the acknowledgement, you can’t understand why you’re feeling that specific emotion.  

This self-awareness launched a little social experiment: I started watching how people acknowledge their emotions.

A toddler is a perfect example of just how powerful acknowledging emotions can be. I watched – with intention – my almost two year old closely for an entire day. Seeing him, and I mean really seeing him, experience emotions is one of the most intriguing things I’ve ever seen. When he’s happy, he smiles. When he’s sad, he cries. When he’s having fun, he’s laughing a contagious belly laugh. When he’s tired, he yawns. He doesn’t hide any emotion. You know exactly what he’s thinking and feeling. Nothing is unknown. It is what it is. He is fully present. He doesn’t check over his shoulder to see what others are thinking. He doesn’t have any judgement about what he is feeling – he fully engages with what is going on.

At what point did it become a rule that adults can’t acknowledge and share their emotions? Societal norms everywhere point to how you need to put on a brave face, have a stiff upper lip. Even pop culture reiterates these expectations with songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the ever popular phrase, “man up!” (ignore the gender bias there for a moment; that’s a discussion for another time).

Imagine how different your day could be if you stopped, noticed and acknowledged, truthfully and without judgement, how you’re feeling in any given moment. By experiencing and seeing what is, you could curb the hangry before it impacts an important afternoon meeting, or you could prevent an angry outburst at a bad driver because you’re tired or running late, or you could be more in the moment with your toddler when they start to process a new emotion.

This self-awareness gives you power to be self-managed, to choose how you want to fully experience this moment. Just imagine how different your day could be if you take the time to properly acknowledge your emotions and allow yourself to feel them, if only for a moment, to help you understand why you’re feeling them.

So, laugh when you find something funny. Smile when you’re happy. Cry when you’re sad. Allow yourself to acknowledge your emotions to make each moment as full as it can be. And by doing so, you allow yourself to more fully experience life in its moments.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. When was the last time you allowed yourself to truly acknowledge and experience an emotion you felt?
  2. What holds you back from experiencing each of your emotions?
  3. What is something you can start doing today to better tune in to what you are actually feeling and then to allow yourself to experience your feelings?


Consider reading Staying Calm and Wise in a Wild Word: Your Reality Check

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