Don’t Let a Moment Ruin Your Day
This week’s blog post topic came to me over the weekend when I *almost* let a small moment ruin my entire day. So, this is also self-talk, as a reminder.
What do I mean when I say, “stop letting a moment ruin your entire day”? Let me set the stage for you. You wake up in a great mood, make a list of the things you want to get done, feel great and joyful. The next thing you know, you’re out grabbing a coffee and walk back to the car, only to discover a parking ticket on your windshield. Boom Joyful Mood is gone.
Here’s another example: You’re in the kitchen, making coffee and a simple conversation with your spouse suddenly takes a strange turn. One of you hear one sentence the wrong way, and now both of you are fuming and angry. Soon, waves of emotion and negativity overwhelm you, and you don’t know how you can recover. The day was supposed to be happy, fun, and productive. But now, the entire day seems ruined.
I have a hunch you can relate to many of these examples. Suddenly our egos take the driver’s seat, and we get stuck on that negative moment.
I don’t know about you, but when something like the above examples happens to me, I tend to stew over the situation and replay it repeatedly. I replay what would have happened “if” and I replay what I’d like to do or say to let the fumes out. Sometimes I stew on details so much that what I’d like to do or say feels more like a memory than a thought. Can you relate?
Sometimes I stew on details so much that what I’d like to do or say feels more like a memory than a thought.
What Makes Us Stew Over the Details?
Scientists will say replaying the negative is a fight or flight response, and that we are trying to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. When something terrible happens in a moment, we tend to feel threatened or, at the very least, insulted. We stew over it because we feel like we can control it, but in reality, it is already in the past, and we can not control it. Relinquishing control is hard!
My wife and I had the privilege of meeting Jon Acuff, author of Start, Finish, and Do-Over. One of the things he was speaking about was “critics math.” Its the idea that focusing on criticism, or the negative eliminates all the praise. Think about in terms of reviews on yelp or google. A business may receive 99 positive reviews, and one not so good, or even terrible review. It is very likely they get stuck, focused, and stew over that one bad review. So, in this case, 99+1= 0. The business owner has let this review affect them so much that they don’t even feel happy or proud of the 99. In this example and many other situations, the one negative review had a much more significant impact on the business owner than all 99 excellent reviews.
That one review has not only caused a failed ‘moment,’ but now, the business owner has had a bad day, and maybe even week. They allow it to cloud the way they continue to do business and make decisions. They make decisions based on fear, or scarcity mentality, guilt, and frustration. They might even be more nitpicky with good reviews and pull out each piece of constructive criticism as personal attacks. The domino effect of allowing one wrong moment to ruin the day doesn’t have to happen.
Instead of just allowing ONE person’s opinion to be just what it is, the business owner has now put on a new set of glasses, tinted with negativity, and now that is how they view everything. A bit dramatic, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps. But it happens all the time, and it’s because we try to have more control than we have. We get mad that the situation occurred in the first place, we get upset things didn’t happen the way we hoped they would, and we get hurt that someone doesn’t like us the way we want them to. We can’t control everyone or everything and how it unfolds around us, but we can control how we react and respond to it. Let go of all the things you thought would happen, should happen, or wanted to happen, and soon you’ll feel better and feel more in control.
How to Let it Go and Get Control Back:
Try these steps to get through the vicious cycle of negativity:
1. Validate Your Feelings.
You might have been in the negatron cycle for a long time, so instead of fueling the fire of negativity, try breaking the cycle.
Validate how you feel. You might be scared, or offended, or disappointed, frustrated, or angry. Say to yourself or even out loud: “You know, I’m disappointed about what just happened! This stinks!” Name the feelings, and instead of clamming up or blowing up, try just observing how you feel. Ask yourself why you feel this way and see if there’s something to discover.
2. Set Your Ego Aside
Setting the ego aside is a tough one. NO one likes to hear they are acting egotistical when they are selfish. I’m not saying you think you are better than someone else, but I am saying that in many moments when something goes wrong, we suddenly get a bit self-absorbed with our feelings and forget to see the other side of things. In these moments where the ego is leading, a person might also overgeneralize and see in black and white with a little gray area. “I’m right; they are wrong” is a common thought. For example, if you feel someone was rude to you over the phone, you might take it very personal or think that the person is simply a jerk. You might lose empathy toward them and even feel angry toward them. In your mind, you are super friendly and kind, and they are cold, rude, jerks who don’t care at all. Distorting the situation is very common when the ego has a black eye. In reality, that person may have had someone before you be cruel to them, and they are trying to shake it off. Or maybe they are feeling sick and trying their best to answer your questions. Or maybe their pet just passed away, and they feel numb. None of those reasons make them a jerk. But your ego convinced you that this is true and snowballs the negativity beyond the point of return. Your ego allows you to take a small moment and destroy your day. Denzel Washington posted on twitter back in 2019, “If you had $86,400 and someone stole $60, would you throw away $86,340 for revenge? Or move on and live? Each of us have 86,400 seconds every day. DON’T let someone’s negative 60 seconds ruin the remaining 86,340. LIFE IS BIGGER THAN THAT AND SO ARE YOU!”
I know that it’s natural to think negatively once in a while, but if you validate your feelings and then set your ego aside, you’ll soon be on your way to reprogramming yourself to cope with the moment and leave it behind you. How do you reprogram yourself? One way is to change the story in your head. Read #3 to understand:
3. Refocus with Facts
When a moment creeps in your day, and you start to feel like it just might ruin things for you, go through steps 1&2 and then land here, in fact-land. Like writing one of those pro/con lists you might use to help make a decision, this will help you refocus. Instead of two columns with “pro” and “cons,” write “FACTS” on one side and “FEELINGS” on the other. On the “FACTS” side, write everything you know is true. On the “FEELINGS” side, write down everything that you’re feeling in the moment that you may have recognized in step 1. Now, fold the piece of paper, so you only see the facts side. Focus on this side. Focusing on the facts is going to help you take the emotion out of the equation. In other words, you’re taking back control!
4. Plant Positivity
When you eliminate the negative thoughts, you have to replace it with something. Some scientists recommend writing down the positive things that happen each day. Some might call it a gratitude journal; others may say it’s counting your blessings. Even the toughest pessimists can learn how to become more optimistic. It’s planting positivity in your brain each day. Soon those seeds take root, and you grow a whole new set of skill sets! I highly recommend doing this each night before bed or starting your day with it each day. A little notebook to compile this positivity will give you bonus points.
5. Distract Yourself.
Stewing in misery or frustration is only going to produce an abundance of overwhelming feelings. Trick yourself into happiness by distracting yourself. Anthony Robbins calls this “Changing your state.” Even jumping up and down in your cubicle can help. The key is to remove yourself from whatever thoughts, body position, situation are causing the moment to be so terrible. Go for a quick 5-minute walk, or listen to uplifting music. When you change your state, your brain diminishes the negativity. (This step puts you in control again too!)
6. Take a Picture of the Big Picture
Everyone has a time in their life where there’s a bad moment. You might have thought everyone’s lives were perfect if you follow them on Instagram, but surprise! Life isn’t perfect for anyone. It is essential to look at your big picture. Do you feel there’s something every day to upset you? Do you feel stressed and angry or frustrated all the time? Do you feel depressed or overwhelmed more often than not? The big picture will tell you if there’s something else going on. If your big picture looks and feels okay, that’s great! I know steps 1–4 will come in handy sooner than later. But if your big picture isn’t sitting right with you, finding professional help is not advisable to scroll past. Mental health is the key to your quality of life. There have never been so many resources to get help. No matter if you love talking to people or you’re the most private person on the planet. There are apps, and there is telemedicine, there is medication, there is therapy, the options are endless if you are open. Your doctor will help you find what is best for you, but you need to have the courage to seek help first.
Chances are whatever happened at that moment that got you so frazzled, is going to be okay from a parking ticket on your car to an argument with your spouse. We tend to get over things over time. These are all just suggestions to help you speed up the time, so you have a more enjoyable time in your day. I can bet when you look back; you’ll be happy you didn’t let the whole day pass with such frustration.
Thank you for giving my blog a visit today! I hope you feel inspired and can relate to this post! Leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions for preventing a moment from ruining an entire day.
Originally published at https://aaronbouren.com on August 26, 2020.