Accentuating the Positive
By Monique Davis
They say that “into every life a little rain must fall.” Does it feel like the rainy season where you are? Sometimes it seems that we get an unfair share of bad stuff happening to us at work, at home, and just in general. For example, in the couple of weeks, the following things have happened to me:
1. I went to the dentist twice and had to pay almost $2,000 to get 6 crowns done. Needless to say, my whole face still hurts.
2. Some jerk backed into my car in a parking lot and did not leave a note taking responsibility. It’s going to cost me my huge stupid deductible on my car insurance first to fix it before my insurance will pay a cent, and the body shop has to have my car for a week to fix it and do all the painting. Nice.
3. My laboratory director quit unexpectedly, giving me virtually no notice to replace her. This will stop 4 ongoing funded projects in their tracks. Great.
4. As part of my current job, I deal with the “bad actors” in my organization, and this week has been full of yelling, emails in capital red letters, and tooth-gritting on my part. Sigh.
At times like this, it’s easy to have a pity party and feel pretty down. Admittedly, I’ve had a rotten week. However, as in the past when I’ve had a crappy day, week, month, or year, for that matter, I’ve made the choice to focus on creating positivity and letting the bad stuff go. I know this sounds trite, but it works. If I concentrated on how much my jaws hurt or what a schmuck the person who hit me is or how unappreciated I feel at work, I’d curl up in a little ball in the corner and just cry; I’d be beaten, and that is not something that is part of my self-concept. So, trite or not, here’s how I’m regrouping and getting ready for whatever, good, bad, and ugly, next week and the weeks after that may bring:
1. Take control over what you can: So I could not control that my car got hit, or how others at my job behave, but I can control how I respond to such things. The power of being a smart, independent, strong person is that we have choices. I made the choice to let my anger go about the car, and to accept that job right now is not what I’d hoped it would be, but that I can still do a good job and support my boss, because that *is* my job.
2. Make the changes, and make them stick: So I’m sick of being the whipping boy (girl?) for all the disgruntled staff in my organization, but part of my job is to help resolve such issues. I’ve chosen, however, to actively and completely ignore any emotional aspect of people’s phone calls, emails, or letters, and work to extract the issue or problem at hand. Then, when I respond, I only address the problem, not their feelings or mine. Don’t get me wrong- it still amazes me how people in the workplace can act out and how they are encouraged to do so by people in higher positions than mine by being rewarded for tantrums, but my job is to help problem-solve, not be a therapist or a punching bag. This is a change that protects me and also, frankly, helps me be more effective in solving the real problems that come my way.
3. Create good: After a crummy week, my husband and I were able to leave the kids with my parents for a night and come up to our family’s cabin. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s away from the week, and it is wonderful to physically leave the city behind, if only for a day. I’ve also prioritized my own self-care, and have made sure I take time to exercise, even if it’s just a nice long walk, everyday. I also spent some extra time this week working with a non-profit I’m part of, Smart-Girl, Inc., which was a great way to connect with a group of colleagues who do appreciate what I bring to the table and are partners in a cause we all care about.
I guess the take-home message is that when things are not going as you hope they will, that the best strategy is to step back and see what you can change. Of course you cannot walk away from your job or tell people where…