we never control what happens to us but we always choose how we (re)act
Bad things happen, and you almost never control them (in general you have control on very few things )
Like when you are travelling and fall sick, like when you are performing and the equipment stops working, like when you put so much efforts into a new project that gets killed by a new manager.
Challenges can test us to the bone, and it’s easy to curse and blame everything and everyone around you that let that thing happen.
And there are people who can only see the negative side about everything that happens in life. Have you ever met someone like this? I know a few such people and sometimes I find it hard to understand how come they are not able to see the beauty around them.
But what is the consequence of investing so much thoughts and emotions into blaming the negative that affects you? You enter a downward spiral. And it’s addictive as you feel relief in shifting the responsibility outside of you. And over time this response and behaviour become your default setting and you stop seeing any positive side in what life brings.
Whether you are aware of this now, trust me, there is always something good in anything. And it’s only up to you to focus on the positive or on the negative.
If you ever felt entitled to a world of equality and justice and wondered why this is not what you always get, sadly my dear you discovered how it works. Ultimately there is no-one who will put things always right for you, and you may end up in a situation that sucks.
Let’s say you go on a short holiday on the other side of the world. It’s the first time in a few years since you last saw the beach. You have been dreaming about this break for long. You get to Bali, one of the most beautiful places in the world but… you get stomach bugs. You suppress the bug with stomach pills and few liters of ice-cold coca cola (don’t take this as medical advice :) ), until you are back to normal!
But… your travel partner wakes up sick and she can’t get off the bed. Your plans are screwed and it’s only hours left before you have to leave.
It sucks right? Yes, but you can still decide to put all your attention on the good things that the situation can offer. For instance more time to sleep for more than 6 hours, time to read, time to relax and talk with an important friend, time to plan new amazing things, no pressure to look at the laptop or phone… Now we are talking: you flipped the script.
Such a helpless situation stops feeling s**t and feels actually great! Or you can keep complaining and get yourself into a bad mood for the rest of your time there and let something external ruin your experience. You get it?
What happens if you learn how to spot opportunities even in the worse situations? You can turn obstacles for your own advantage and keep going.
And you can always do it.
Your emotional and mental responsiveness work like a muscle and thus need training.
I am a big fan of Tim Ferris and one practice that kept coming up in his podcasts, was this thing called the 21 day no-complaint challenge (link here), where you stop complaining for 3 weeks to train your brain to spot the good in any situation. I put the exercise below so you can use it, if you feel like you are sick of complaining and want to instead make the most of any situation.
Opportunities are endless and if you train yourself to not react and instead get the most out of any situation, I can promise you’ll start seeing amazing things happening everywhere in your life.
Exercise and blog article from Tim Ferris: https://tim.blog/2007/09/18/real-mind-control-the-21-day-no-complaint-experiment/
Book ‘Obstcle Is The Way’ by Ryan Holiday: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obstacle-Way-Ancient-Adversity-Advantage/dp/1781251487 - one of the most influential books I’ve read, would highly recommend to anyone who wants to go deeper into this
Podcast ‘How To Succeed In High Stress Situations’ with Tim Ferris interviewing Ryan Holiday on the topic https://tim.blog/2018/06/10/how-to-succeed-in-high-stress-situations/ - recommended as a start and if you like listening to stuff
Exercise: 21 day no complaints challenge
This is basically a challenge that you do to not complain ever for 21 days in a row.
it’s incredibly challenging - trust me! - if you never worked on it. But the payoff is huge and it will make a difference between you being slave of bad events and you being the unstoppable version of you.
I did this practice, and honestly is one of the things that changed my perspective on life the fastest. I talked about it with some of my closest friends and those who did it, found it incredibly beneficial too. If you try it I want to know about how it went!
1) From today you agree to not complain about anything that happens, no matter what. You can pick a partner to do this with if you are competitive
2) The rule is that if something goes wrong to you, you can allow yourself to think ‘oh shit’, but then you catch yourself in the act and reframe it to ‘____ happened and now I can do ____, or ___’.
3) If you complain and don’t reframe, then you start the 21 days counter over
And things to remember…
- you can ALWAYS decide how to react and focus on the positive side of things
- if you get into the habit of transforming obstacles into opportunities, your life becomes a game and you an unstoppable player
- don’t be harsh if you struggle and complain every so often. We are humans and hardwired to react to negative situations. But keep coming up stronger! In the end don’t be afraid to be bad until you are good