Make The Best Of A Bad Situation

A man that I know was trapped in a bad situation. He was stuck with responsibilities that he didn’t choose. His relationship was falling apart. He felt depressed and angry and out of control.

For awhile he wallowed in the unjustness of it all. He was a good person, why did this happen to him? Why didn’t he get respect for doing the dirty jobs? Others said that they appreciated what he was doing, but their words never really felt like enough.

He had taken on the responsibilities because he felt like there was no choice. If he gave up and walked away, everything would fall apart and he would feel worse than ever.

Instead of giving up, this man did something different. He took control of the situation, and took back his life.

Love

The first thing that he did was to find things to love. He was stuck with a dog that he had never wanted. But the dog wagged it’s tail every time it heard his voice. The dog loved him, unconditionally, even as he had let his resentment of the dog grow. So he realized that even if he didn’t like how he got stuck with the dog, the dog itself was actually great. He gave in to it’s charms, to it’s soulful brown eyes and wagging tail, to the way it laid it’s head in his lap. Instead of resenting or feeling angry about the dog, he let himself see the wonder of how such a loving animal had come into his life, at a time when he felt so all alone.

Loving the dog opened his heart to loving other people as well. He found himself at times being actually happy to be in his current situation. The feeling didn’t last, but it gave him hope for the future.

Create Beauty

As he began to feel hope, he became more aware of other aspects of his life that made him feel bad.  He realized that he was depressed by his surroundings. The house was in bad shape, and he didn’t have the money necessary to fix it up. He was discouraged every day when he looked around him.

He decided to ignore for now the things that were beyond his control. The rotting siding would have to wait. But he could come up with enough money to buy a few plants, which he planted just outside the kitchen window. Now, when he looked outside he saw something beautiful that cheered him up.

Take Control

He realized that he didn’t have to live with the cardboard covering the broken window pane. A piece of glass was inexpensive, and he was able to learn from YouTube how to replace the pane. Once that was fixed, he started to feel a lot better about the house. He looked around for other places where, with a little effort, he could make a difference.

Approve of Yourself

His disintegrating relationship continued to bother him, especially at night as he went to bed. He had spent so many years trying to make things work. Now she was away, trying to “discover” herself. Where did that leave him? Sitting and waiting and miserably unhappy.

Before he had met her he was a reasonably happy and self-directed man. Now he felt like his happiness depended on her whim.

One night he got angry. He was not a bad person. He was the one taking on the responsibilities while she went off on her own. Granted, their life together had been less than happy lately, but was he the only one to blame?

Life without her was actually no worse than life with her had been recently. In some ways, it was easier, because he didn’t have to face the daily resentments and silent treatment. How could he be held responsible for another person’s happiness, especially when he didn’t even know how to make her happy anymore?

She was away, and he was left to his own devices. He decided, right then and there, that he had a right to be happy, regardless of how she felt.

He started to go out more often, to group gatherings, to enjoy the company of other people. He was limited by his responsibilities, but he still made time to get out now and then. As he smiled at the other people in the group, and lent a hand to make things go more smoothly, he knew that he was a good person.

He approved of himself for the difficult and often thankless tasks that he was undertaking. He did them out of love, because he expected that sort of behavior from himself.

Meaning

Life might be tough right now, but it was for a good reason. He was doing things with his life that he needed to do because of feelings of personal integrity. The responsibilities were difficult, but they would not last forever. It was a choice that he made, because he was the kind of honorable man who would do these things.

 

This man turned his life around by taking a few important steps. First, he found things to love. He released the love that he had bottled up inside himself, and allowed it to flow into the world. He took care of his surroundings, to make sure that, to the extent possible, they uplifted him instead of allowing them to pull him down. He stopped dwelling on things that he couldn’t control, and instead took care of things that he could control. He looked inside himself for his higher purpose, and began to approve of himself again.

Life can get difficult at times, but we do have control over how we face life.

How To Let Go Of Negative Emotions

A positive attitude has many benefits for health and well-being. And research has shown that people with positive attitudes can be more successful.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” — Zig Ziglar

Having a positive attitude is easy when times are good, but what about when the going gets hard?

There are times when negative thoughts just seem to take over your life. You know the importance of keeping a positive outlook. You can understand that people who think positive thoughts are healthier, accomplish more, and lead happier lives. But somehow you can still get caught up in the spiral of negativity.

The human brain is interesting. It makes excuses. It convinces you that because you feel bad about something, then that particular thing must be to blame. If you feel angry at someone your brain convinces you that your anger is caused by the other person. You can tell yourself that your anger is a choice, but your deep-down gut feeling still remains, that the object of your anger is responsible for your anger.

So how can you break free of negative thinking? How can you sort out your emotions and get back on track?

Here are six tips to help you pull yourself out of negative emotions.

Grumpiness

Grumpiness or grouchiness is one type of negative emotion, generally short-lived and clearly a deviation from a normal happy attitude. You may feel that people or situations are against you, but if you examine your feelings closely, you will realize that on many other days the same situation doesn’t affect you negatively.

When you find yourself in a grouchy mood, look for physical causes of discomfort. There is a lot of truth to the old adage that everything looks brighter after a good night’s sleep. Many people are cranky when they are tired or otherwise uncomfortable. Try to hold off acting on your anger while you tend to your physical needs.

When your body and mind are comfortable, you will have an easier time maintaining a positive attitude.

Stress

One of my favorite responses to get over feelings of stress is to take positive action. For example, I may be stressed out by a pile of bills waiting to be paid.

In this case, my best course of action is to take one bill, preferably one of the most important and stressful ones, and take action on it. It might simply be a matter of writing a check, or paying online. Or it might require other action, like making a phone call to clear up an issue.

Once I have handled one item, I invariably start to feel better, and find the other items easier to deal with.

Words

When your negative thoughts stem from unhappiness about a current situation, it is important to examine your language. If you speak negatively about something, you are training your brain to think about it in a negative light.

For example, a kid calling her little brother a “pest” focuses her thoughts on the negative behavior of her little brother. If she merely drops that word from her vocabulary she will be well on her way to a more constructive relationship with her sibling.

Changing your language from “I don’t like” to “I like” can make a huge difference. Your brain wants to be consistent, so if you say you like something, you will actually begin to like it.

Responsibilities

Sometimes current responsibilities have you weighed down, creating stress and negative moods. You may secretly wish that the responsibility would just go away.

Realize that sooner or later, one way or another, that responsibility will be gone. So it is important to enjoy what you can about the responsibility before it is gone forever.

Ask yourself what will you miss when the responsibility is gone. Look for and savor the good parts.

Betrayal

What if you have been betrayed by someone, a close friend or relation? The bad feelings can eat you up inside. If you think about it, you will realize that beyond the simple betrayal, you are allowing your life to be ruined by the negative emotions triggered by that person. That is not what you want. You don’t want to give them that much power.

But how to drop the twisting negative thoughts that get you down, and move beyond it? You can use perspective, by recognizing that that person is only one person in the world. They are not you. You are full and complete without them.

When you feel yourself consumed by anger and bitterness, get out and do something physical. Expose yourself to the light of day. Look at how big the world is, how much possibility lies in your future. Gradually, as you look at the potential in your life, you will feel the anger dissipate. Allow it to go. There is too much in store for you to let one terrible person destroy your life.

Loss

When you lose somebody the physical pain of the loss can be devastating. It takes time to get beyond the pain and to start to be able to enjoy life again.

While you wait for the pain to pass, try to  observe yourself in a detached manner. Recognize that the pain will fade, and that you should let it fade. You won’t honor the person you lost if you hold on to the grief. You can always remember them, and miss them, but allow the pain to fade.

Seek Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude works wonders for helping people to live a happier life. But when you are full of bottled up anger it is hard to feel grateful. It can feel as if you need to act on the anger, to strike back at the perceived cause of your distress. For some reason we feel an intense need to hold on to our anger, as if somehow it protects us.

To get past the negative emotions, focus on one small thing that you think is good. Put aside the anger or other negative emotions for the moment. Let yourself just file them away for a minute, while you think about something else.

Focus first on one good thing. Your lips might still be clamped with unhappiness, that is okay. Try to focus briefly on each of three good things. You may feel the tightness in your chest ease a little. That is good.

Practice this activity each day. Don’t expect your negative emotions to be released immediately. It takes a little while to train your body to be happy instead of unhappy. But one day you may find that the negative feelings are suddenly gone.

 

Use the tips above, and seek professional help if necessary, to let go of your negative emotions.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” — Walt Whitman

It is amazing how unhappiness and anger can just dissolve, when you work on it properly. The black cloud can be lifted, and you can find yourself happy and smiling under sunny skies.

If you find that you are not able to cope with your negative feelings, please seek professional help.

How To Cope With Stressful Situations

My plan was to write for my blog every two weeks. But I didn’t write an article two weeks ago, as I was supposed to. There is just so much going on with my family right now. I found it more comforting to immerse myself in writing software, instead of trying to write a blog.

At stressful times like this I rely on having an arsenal of coping tips. Three tips that really help me are to take positive action, to talk to other people, and to realize that everything doesn’t have to be done at once.

Take Positive Action

When I am feeling stressed because there are so many things that need to be done, I find that it can really help to choose just one thing, and carry it through to completion. The feeling of relief comes not only from having one less thing to worry about, but also from the knowledge that I am taking care of things.

Taking positive action means doing something, no matter how small, about the problem. It doesn’t mean ignoring the problem and working on something else.

 “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” — Lee Iacocca

Sometimes when I use this tip I realize that there are things that I actually can’t take action on at the moment. Worrying about those things, but being unable to do something, can be very stressful. So when I uncover something that I can’t act on because of a prerequisite, or because the time has not yet come, I make a note of what is needed to trigger that action. Then I can put that task aside for the time being.

Talk To Other People

When you are facing a particularly stressful time in your life it can really help to talk with other people. It helps to talk with your support system — friends and family — to vent or get another perspective on the problem.

It also helps to talk with other people who are facing or have faced the same problem. Just knowing that someone else has the same problem can make you feel less alone. People who are coping with the same difficulties are more likely to understand how you feel, and can share tips and knowledge on how to cope.

You can look for support groups, where you can meet and talk with other people. And don’t neglect to seek professional help if you find yourself unable to cope.

Everything Doesn’t Have To Be Done At Once

When faced with a problem your mind can kick into overdrive, thinking and planning on every aspect of the situation. In most cases, not everything needs to be done at the moment. But with your mind in overdrive you can experience problems with sleeping and an inability to relax.

Step back for a moment, and look at the timeline. How soon do certain things need to be done? Perhaps you can assign yourself some tasks for this week, and schedule others for the following week. Big issues can require ongoing work, but may have a deadline of weeks or months away.

Don’t try to juggle everything at once, or you will wear yourself out. I like to schedule things on my calendar, so that I have a date when I know I will take care of something.

When you realize that it doesn’t have to all be done at once, you can take a calmer approach. You may see that some of the tasks don’t really have to be done at all. And you may see some tasks that you can delegate to others who are willing to help.

Sometimes life throws a lot at you at once. By relaxing and taking things step by step you can avoid stress and handle the difficult situation.

What You Learned In Kindergarten May Be Holding You Back

In kindergarten we learned to play nice. To wait in line, take turns, and never take more than our fair share. These values help to create a society that runs smoothly, where people get along with each other.

But they do nothing to create a world that is getting better every day, where innovative people come up with new ideas. They do nothing to create leaders.

Share Equally

Consider the case of Lihong, who grew up in China. His parents struggled to get by. Everybody in the village was very poor, and there was no incentive for self-improvement. If one person worked harder than the others, he didn’t profit, but instead, anything he made was shared equally.

But during the Four Modernizations era people began to be allowed to profit by their own hard work. Many small industries sprang up. Lihong’s parents ran a shop, and began to be able to afford small luxuries. Culturally it was still difficult; people still thought of capitalism as a dirty word, but conditions began to improve.

Lihong learned from this experience. When everybody is forced to share equally, there is no incentive for anyone to to try to do better. It was as if everybody was lazy. But when people were allowed to profit from their hard work, they would work hard to improve their own circumstances, which also usually made life better for other people as well.

If we can’t benefit from the fruits of our own labor, we are no better than slaves or serfs. Each person should have the right to benefit from their own thoughts and actions.

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” — Winston Churchill

The promise of life in America is the right to benefit from what we do. We need to make sure that what we do doesn’t hurt society. We have to be prepared to suffer the consequences of our actions. But we have the right to make as much or as little as we we are willing to work for.

It’s Not Fair!

A common refrain of childhood, especially in multi-child families, is “It’s not fair!”. Cries of “She got more than I did!” or “His piece is bigger than mine!” abound. At an early age the concept of fairness is ingrained in us.

Fairness helps to make sure that our clan can survive, by making sure that each person gets some food. The concept of fairness helps us to look out for each other. Human beings are social animals. When we look out for each other, we create strong social bonds.

However, life is not fair. Some people have more opportunities than others. Some people have more bad luck. If we always strive to be fair, we might think that we shouldn’t take an opportunity because not everybody has that opportunity. Or we might think that we should suffer a calamity, because other people are suffering.

That way of thinking doesn’t help to create a better world. We each have the right to pursue the opportunities that come our way, even if other people don’t have the same opportunities. And we don’t have to suffer needlessly just because other people are suffering.

We can make our choices based on considerations of what might help other people or society as a whole, but we don’t have to forego good luck just because other people don’t have the same opportunity.

And we have the right to do everything in our power to avoid negative outcomes for ourselves.  We should consider the larger world, our families and communities, but ultimately we don’t have to take the bad just because “somebody has to”.

“Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” — Oscar Wilde

Life is not fair. It is your responsibility to make the best of what is given to you.

Wait Your Turn

In kindergarten we learned to wait for our turn with a favored toy. There was some assurance from the adults in charge that we would have equal time if only we would wait. However, even in kindergarten we may have noticed that sometimes playtime was over before we got the promised turn.

Again, waiting for a turn creates an orderly society, where people are not fighting to be first. It works well in bank lines and at the grocery store. But it does not work so well with opportunities in life.

If we believe that somebody else has the right to the valued goods right now, we deny our own right. It is much better to realize that we have equal rights to the scarce commodities, but we have to be smart about how we get to them.

One approach that is often successful is to fight for our rights by explaining convincingly why we should have the coveted resource more than other people should. A highly persuasive person is often allowed to go first or have the best.

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” — Harry S Truman

Another approach is to spend more than other people for the right to be first. You can become a gold card member at some establishments, giving you special privileges. You can donate more, or pay a higher price for the privilege of being first.

Perhaps there is a way around the queue. At some stores, if you are paying attention, another register will open and you can grab the opportunity to be first. Perhaps a kindergartner can find old toy and have so much fun with it, that other children will abandon the new toy and gravitate toward the older one. The wise child can then go take a turn with the new toy in peace.

However you approach the situation, realize that you have as much right as anybody else to be first. You do want to consider your community when you plan your approach.  Starting a fist fight in order to be first is not a good approach in civilized society. But you should consider finding a way around the line if it matters a lot to you. Otherwise just wait your turn patiently.

Leadership

A leader recognizes that she has a right to the fruits of her own labor and mental efforts. Other people may not have as much, because they may not strive as hard. But that doesn’t mean that she has to limit herself.

A good leader considers other people and the greater good to society, but also allows herself to have what she can earn.

A leader realizes that life is not fair. She takes what comes her way, and makes the best out of it. She knows she has the right to pursue her unique opportunities, and to avoid negative consequences to herself.

A good leader realizes that as she pursues an opportunity that is good for her, she can also make the world a better place because of it.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” — Alexander the Great

A leader doesn’t stand around and wait for something to happen. A good leader steps out and leads the way.

How Thinking Can Help You Succeed

Sketch by Viktoria Romanova
Image Copyright 2016 Viktoria Romanova VRomanova.com

My friend just sent me some working sketches for her next paintings. I am impressed that although we see the same sights, she is able to create something new and fresh and interesting by using her thoughts to organize and interpret what she sees.

Thoughts are amazing things. Two people can have the same experience, but interpret it in two entirely different ways. Experiences shape us, but the use of our minds ultimately makes us who we are.

While I don’t believe that merely thinking positively about something will cause it to materialize, I do believe that you are unlikely to reach your goals if you don’t imagine them.

What kind of thinking can you engage in that will help you to achieve what you want to achieve?

1. Study others
By studying other people who have done something similar to what you want to do, you can begin to see patterns of what works and what doesn’t work.

If you want to climb a mountain, studying accidents that happened to other mountaineers can help you to avoid similar mistakes. If you want to write, you must read a lot. You will see what appeals to you, and get a feel for the style and rhythm of other authors.

The same idea holds true for businesses or careers. If you study other people, both successes and failures, you will build a bank of knowledge that will help you in your journey.

2. See things in a new way
After you have studied what other people do, take a step back, and allow your personal thoughts and experiences meld with what you have learned.

Steve Jobs allowed his love of typography to mix with his love of computers, creating the Apple computer. Your own personal experiences and thoughts will affect your interpretation of the facts.

Perhaps some seemingly unrelated concepts will come together to create something new. Perhaps you will notice something that people who went before you missed. Perhaps you have strong moral or religious beliefs that will cause you to do things in a different way.

It is one thing to study others and merely copy them; in that case you would only be a pale imitation. The real strength is to study other people or ideas, and use that knowledge as a stepping stone to be or create something that is more and better.

3. Be optimistic
By being optimistic we are more likely to come up with ideas that can help us toward positive outcomes. When we think that a goal is possible, we begin to see paths toward that goal that would be hidden if we started with the notion that the goal was impossible.

When I ride a bicycle and want to go through a narrow opening, I must focus on the clear path through the opening. If I slip up and focus instead on one of the barriers that I need to avoid, I invariably hit that barrier.

The same is true with goals. We need to focus on the clear path toward success. When obstacles arise, we must focus on the path around them, and not on the obstacles themselves.

4. Don’t be bounded
There are so many rules, both written and unwritten, that we follow every day. Drive on the correct side of the road, dress a certain way, pursue the right career. We need rules for society to function.

But, if you want to achieve your goals or do something new in the world, you need to question your assumptions. Don’t take them for granted.

Do we really need to drive on the right side of the road? Why is the rule there? It’s purpose is to provide an orderly flow to traffic so that people don’t run into each other. But what if there were no roads? Or separate roads based on which direction you were traveling? Or eastbound traffic went on a different level than westbound traffic?

When you dig down to the roots, to the reason for a rule or an assumption, then you can become creative and begin to get beyond the limitations.

5. Set your own interpretation
In his play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare points out that nothing is really good or bad in itself. It is our interpretation of the events that make them good or bad.

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” — William Shakespeare

You may not have control over the events, but you do have control over your interpretation of them. Most of the obstacles and misfortunes that we suffer in the ordinary course of life are only as bad as we believe them to be.

There are fates that are truly bad, for example being held hostage or starving in the wilderness. But we still have control of our thoughts. John McCain, while being held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, said that he would write books and plays in his head to keep himself sane.

Take control of your thoughts. Use them wisely, to make the best of every situation.

6. Do good for others
Turn your thoughts to how you can best help other people.

Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy was that the highest virtue was to do good to other people.

When you turn your thoughts to how you can to the most good for the most people, you become very creative. You start to solve some of the problems of the world. A successful product is really a good solution to a problem.

In service industries, “delighting the customer” has become a buzz-phrase for a path to success. Customers are delighted when we do the most good for them.

If you want to get ahead in your career, one of the best paths is to make your supervisor more successful. When your supervisor sees that you have his or her best interests at heart, he or she is more likely to help you.

Your life takes on more meaning as you do good for other people. A meaningful life is a successful life.

7. Listen to your inner-self
Your gut feelings or intuition often come about because of things that you perceived on a subconscious level. You may not be fully aware of why you feel a particular way, but you should listen to yourself and your intuition.

Don’t take your feelings on blind faith, however. Some things that frighten us, like public speaking, are not actually as dangerous as our instincts lead us to believe.

But do take your feelings seriously. Investigate more deeply, for example, if you feel that you don’t trust somebody. You may have picked up some subtle cues in body language that indicate the person truly is untrustworthy.

Use this deeper part of your mind to your advantage, taking it seriously, and probing more deeply.

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Careful attention to your thoughts is important to achieving your goals. Take control of your thoughts, and become successful!

I am excited to announce the release of my new eBook, “19 Tips For Overcoming Procrastination”. Get the free eBook here!