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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

An Easy Way to Make a Sucky Day a Little Bit Less Sucky

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I sat staring at my computer, feeling totally defeated and discouraged. Despite my best efforts to reassure myself that business isn’t personal, I could feel my chest getting tight and my eyes welling up with tears.

What happened? Well, my whole day seemed to be turning into a relentless tornado of awful events.

My editor had requested major revisions to a piece that I had already invested hours in. A long-term client I loved working with had to unexpectedly end our retainer agreement. Oh, and the hot chocolate I had made in an effort to comfort myself? It burnt my tongue and then spilled all over my keyboard. There’s no doubt about it—the world was definitely out to get me.

Chances are, you’ve had days like this before—days when life seems to throw you curveball after curveball. And, instead of managing to adjust your catch or move out of the way entirely, you just get smacked in the face over and over again.

Yes, I know all of the advice that’s supposedly helpful in dealing with these inevitable horrible days. In fact, I write that very advice for a living. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Recite positive affirmations or remind yourself of all of the great things you have in your life. But, let’s face it: None of it really helps when everything is going wrong and you just want to wallow in your own self pity.

Bad days suck, and you’re allowed to recognize that fact. You’re only human, after all.

But, with that said, I knew there had to be something I could do to make things a little more tolerable. It was then that I found this solid advice from Les Brown’s talk, “It’s Not Over Until You Win:

Don’t say, ‘I’m having a bad day.’ Say, ‘I am having a character-building day.’

Les Brown

I was intrigued by this challenge to reframe the way I thought about those obstacles. So, with my burnt tongue and deflated ego, I began to look at my day with this refreshed perspective.

I’ll admit it wasn’t easy to turn off my frustration and switch to a more introspective mindset. But, as soon as I did, I began to recognize the lessons I could learn and the skills I could develop by using those not-so-fun events to my advantage.

Ultimately, those extensive edit requests were going to make me a better writer and give me a greater understanding of what that editor was looking for in future pieces. Losing that long-term client stung. But, it was going to teach me resilience, persistence, and also give me the opportunity to go out there and secure some new projects. That burnt tongue? Well, hopefully it’ll serve as a reminder to have some patience—unless I want my mouth to feel like sandpaper for days.

I know better than anyone that it can be tough to see through the negative when you find yourself down in the dumps. But, as Brown points out, setbacks happen for the best of us. And, as awful as they can be, they give you a tougher skin moving forward.

“There are moments when you’re going to doubt yourself,” Brown says in his same talk, “Rough times are going to come, but they have not come to stay, they have come to pass. It’s very important for you to know that.”

So, the next time you find yourself having a day that can only be described as terrible, I challenge you to use Brown’s advice, flip the script, and look at it as a “character building day.” I’m willing to bet that just that one change in your mindset will make a big difference.

Are you having a “character building day” today? Let me know about it on Twitter!