Post No.: 0489
Always try to look on the bright side of life! If you ever get knocked down or rejected – get back up again. If something or someone isn’t right for you, it doesn’t mean other things or people also aren’t. You’re still valuable.
Look at adversity from a more positive perspective by believing that setbacks are only temporary or will, in the long run, turn out for the best. Events are neither inherently good nor bad – it’s how you interpret them. If things go wrong then ask if it really matters in the grand scheme of things? Is it permanent or can it be changed? Every past thing that’s happened can be interpreted as positive – it’s at least a growth opportunity. So try to find the good things that have come out from these experiences. It can also take the bad days to know what the good days are, just like we often don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone.
Things may seem terrible for the moment but look at how things could’ve been much worse. Count your blessings – look at what you (still) have rather than what you don’t. Never take what you have for granted. Compare yourself to those worse-off than you – many people who are poorer than you in the world right now might even seem happier than you. The glass may still be (far) more than half-full. You may at least still have an able body and/or a fighting spirit! In this context, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Try not to dwell on any ill fortune – if you cannot do anything about something then let it go, or if you can then make a plan for the future to do it. It’s not yet the end of the world and you’re still alive to be able to make a difference somewhere, to your own life and/or others. We learn the most from such experiences too, so it’s an opportunity to learn, adjust and grow. Where relevant, accept blame to learn from your mistakes. Apologise and forgive. The past is over so take its lessons but concentrate on the present and the future. There are still great things to look forwards to even though you might not be able to anticipate them right now.
Believe that all events turned or will turn out ultimately for the best because they really can if we’re patient and observant enough. There’s good fortune hidden within everything. Seriously challenging moments can make us start afresh, re-evaluate and re-prioritise, and consider what’s really important and irreplaceable in our lives (e.g. these lockdowns have given the environment a moment to somewhat recuperate and have taught many people to recognise what’s truly valuable in their lives). Failure can spur us to work even harder and/or to consider different strategies to succeed.
So adapt. Know what went wrong so that you can do things differently next time. If something wasn’t working then try something else or exert your energies and attention elsewhere productive where there’s other fruit i.e. think laterally too. If something isn’t working and you’ve already tried your best then you must try something else rather than stick to what hasn’t worked before. Creativity can help us find alternative solutions for the things we can control, and alternative perspectives for the things we cannot (this includes an attitude of seeking contentment rather than ever more desire).
Perhaps distract yourself in the meantime until you’ve figured out what you want to do next (e.g. watch a funny movie, play some videogames). Look for constructive rather than destructive pursuits (e.g. try a new hobby, learn new skills). Look after your physical and mental health with the right nutrition, exercise and some self-compassion.
Everyone who’s been through what you’re going through – because you’re incredibly unlikely to be the first, last or only person right now – and risen like a phoenix on the other side of the experience will empathise that it’s all easier said than done, but it can be done! Don’t underestimate your ability to cope with adversity and setbacks, and don’t overestimate the negative effects of them. So take a chance! See it as a new challenge to live for. What evidence is there to say that positive things have no probability of happening? The answer is none because as long as you’re still breathing, there’s always still a chance.
Sometimes we fear failure. Sometimes we even fear success because of the indirect outcomes that accompany it (e.g. fame and the loss of privacy). But when we look back upon our lives, we tend to regret more the things we didn’t try than the things we tried but failed – so embrace the opportunity to start afresh. Our foibles and gaffes draw less attention and cause less negative impressions than we may think, and they’ll be soon forgotten anyway, so give something a go!
Change is often scary but there’s no better opportunity than now to try a new you. If you’re unhappy – do something productive about it. Like changing your energy supplier rather than (merely) moaning about their poor service – change an aspect of your life that’s bothering you rather than just continually complain about it. Don’t bitch – switch! Worrying or panicking evolved for a good reason, and that reason is to draw our attention onto or warn us about something that is (potentially) concerning. But this means nothing unless we then do something about it. Endlessly worrying is what we do when we do nothing constructive and productive about finding a solution to relieve that worry. A solution may not appear overnight and although each step may be small, every step will add up towards getting closer to whatever your goal is thus will be worth it. After a concern has been noted, further worrying does absolutely nothing more for us except harmfully stress ourselves out – seizing a sense of control of the situation is the best way to reduce our worries about it, so get proactive and productive (although remember to do something that’s constructive and sustainable for the long-term).
Extending on Post No.: 0446, chronic worrying is therefore a waste of time and energy because it means that we haven’t progressed from the initial warning to actual productive action, or at least a plan to solve the problem or let it go. Worrying isn’t work. Nagging or flapping can drain the energy of those around you too. It’s not productive even though it seems like you’re doing something productive because of the time, words and energy spent worrying. Do make your concerns known to whomever they may concern, and remind them of them if necessary i.e. don’t conversely stay alone about concerns that can be shared or silent about concerns that need the help of others to solve, but if you’re the one most bothered about something then it’s primarily down to you to act upon it because no one should be more motivated than you to tackle it.
If you’re worrying about something that’ll happen in the future (e.g. a dentist appointment) then that worry isn’t going to change anything. The solutions are getting information, forming a plan, trusting in that plan and then executing it. Otherwise forget about worrying because it’s pointless. The person who’s fetching buckets of water to put the fire out tends to feel less panic than the person who can only helplessly watch his/her shed burn down. (Sportspeople often feel more restless as spectators than as participants in a competition. The same with backseat drivers compared to the actual drivers of vehicles.) Those who know what to do in a situation – and are doing it – don’t need to panic so much. If you don’t know what to do then proactively find out via some lessons. Education is preparation. So it’s taking productive action that gives us a sense of control that in turn reduces our worries; as well as planning (e.g. installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers). A good plan usually improves one’s confidence, outlook, and sometimes enthusiasm and excitement, no end!
There may be other reasons on a case-by-case basis but the primary reason why even scientifically-supported advice relayed in self-help books don’t seem to work for many is not because of the fluffy teachings but in the practising – like regular exercise and a balanced diet, the advice is generally sound but the problem is not practising it, and then not sticking with it! No one (who isn’t likely a charlatan) promises an effortless, quick-fix solution – the teachings must be embedded into one’s practical daily habits in order to produce any positive benefit. Knowing isn’t the same as doing.
Routines add important stabilising structure and comfort zones to our lives, but if a routine becomes unhealthy, limiting or in some other way isn’t working for us, then we’ve got to change our routines to improve – even in the smallest ways to get started. We need to balance freedom with structure, routine and security – when we have too much structure, we will feel constrained, and when we have too much freedom, we can feel adrift and unsure of what to do.
Change can be difficult though – sometimes not because of the practical barriers but because of the emotional and psychological barriers to change. Evidently, behavioural change isn’t easy even if one believes in it, wants it and knows what one must do. Arguably, the stalemate is because health professionals, teachers, etc. aren’t knowledgeable, ready or empathic enough to understand people’s fears of failure, doubts about the effectiveness of programmes, worries about finding the perfect route to change, desires for certainty, or genuine concerns about the consequences of changing (particularly people in the ‘precontemplation’ stage i.e. people who aren’t even thinking about change because they don’t see their behaviour as a problem at all).
People who are resistant to change often wrongly assume that it’s an all-or-nothing process that’s linear. They don’t realise that it’s typically incremental and usually involves some stumbles along the way. They may feel demoralised because of the repeated failures that make them feel stuck and/or they’re too busy defending their existing behaviour (by denying it’s a problem, rationalising, withdrawing into a defensive stance or by lashing out at others).
It’s therefore important to know how to address all of these serious obstacles head-on before pressing people into taking action. Instead of berating or accusing people of personality defects or frightening them with statistics (which can make them defensively shut off or believe in the self-fulfilling prophecy that they’re inadequate) – it’s more productive and effective to show compassionate understanding and give them information and hope. Normalising these hesitant reactions to change, giving people alternative ways to reframe their fears and disappointments, teaching skills for handling distress, environmental nudging and possibly providing the right incentives, are crucial for helping people to overcome their emotional and psychological barriers to change.
So it’s undoubtedly far easier to merely tell people to pick themselves up and change their lives after a psychological fall, but this process isn’t usually quick or effortless hence we need to manage the expectations of others and ourselves. Unrealistic expectations more likely lead to disillusionment, quitting and a greater sense of personal deficiency and failure.
Woof! Taking all of this into account whilst summarising – doing something productive reduces our worries best, so don’t be a passenger when you can take control of a situation. Deal with it now or when you plan to do it, and if you’ve set a date then trust that plan and don’t think about the problem again until that day comes. List your options – be creative and look at the problem from different points of view. Consider the timescale, resources, ability and consequences, then make your choice. Act on your plan. Don’t be hasty yet don’t procrastinate either. Be flexible too. Don’t fixate on the problem as much as try to have fun finding and executing a solution!