These next few posts are going to be a collection of lessons that I have learned from coworkers. Three different people, three different post offices. We begin in the sunny town of Franksville where I used to be postmaster. I was discussing self-improvement and introspective topics with the person who works there. We often have brief but intense discussions on some of our favorite people who inspire us.
On this particular day, the young lady mentioned she had been having some stressful days where she was feeling down. She was concerned that in her journey she might be taking a step back. I think any of us on a path to improving our lives and ourselves, have felt something similar. One of the most common questions I am asked at book signings, seminars and just by people I interact with is “Do you ever have a bad day?” “Are there days you are not in a good mood?” My answer is simple, of course I do. Everyone has days in their life where things just seem to go south when you would like them to go north. I actually had my day start that way today.
Does this mean we are not being successful in our self-improvement journey? Does this mean we are somehow doing it wrong? Are the amount of days we feel down indicative to our progress in life? Not at all! As the movie Forest Gump made light of, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get.” There are many situations that are beyond our control. Some moments it would appear we are having a run of ‘good luck’ where other times it would seem ‘the deck is stacked against us’. I am here to tell you that kind of thinking is a bunch of BS! (Belief systems).
Our success is not in eliminating every single challenge in life. We will all have days or more to the point, moments when life gets the best of us. The true test of our character is in shortening both the intensity and duration of those experiences. In fact, we grow most in times of pain and challenge. We learn the most about ourselves, those we care about and the world around us when times see the darkest. It is in putting these situations to work for us that we can take an experience that is a negative and turn it into a positive. Like finding a big hole in the ground and turning it into a mind in which we pull diamonds out of. These diamonds are better than jewels though. They can be diamonds of physical, mental and emotional strength we never knew we had. It can be the jewel of gratitude for those who help us when we are down.
How can we turn all of these negative situations in positive ones? I am going to give you a quick tool to start using by the end of our time together here today. Here it is – ask two simple questions. It would be a good idea to write these two questions down so when times get tough you don’t have to search for them on top of everything else. The first one we kind of alluded to earlier. How can I use this? Can I use it to be better prepared for a similar event in the future? Can I use it to develop a skill that I do not have at this moment in time? Can I use it to stoke the fires of motivation I have to succeed in the future?
The second question we should ask ourselves when things are bad is What is good about this? If you ask this question second it usually works a lot better. Once you found how to put your grief/pain/anger/sadness or whatever other challenging emotion to work for you, it can be a lot easier to find something positive in it. Perhaps you are experiencing the pain of regret over not spending enough time with a love one you lost. You can put that pain to work to motivate you to cherish and give 100% to those you love who are still here. The ‘positive’ that could come out of that pain is to remind you to express your feelings and take time for those who are in your life presently. I am sure you could think of examples in your own life as well.
To wrap up what turned out to be a longer post than I expected, let us remember the true measure of success. It is not to eliminate all stress and never have a bad day. We would never really grow then. It is finding ways to shorten the duration of time we spend in that negative state. We can do it by asking the two questions in the order we demonstrated above. When we go through pain and struggle we gain valuable tools that will allow us to better contribute to and serve others around us and the world at large. Next time you find yourself having a day where you are feeling down, remember that does not mean you are failing. What it does mean, is you have an opportunity to grow and develop tools you would otherwise not have.