You will be familiar with the saying ‘perception is reality’ and you can use this to work in your favour in your daily life.
Most days you are either worrying about something bad that has happened or gone against you – a setback or a failure – or alternatively you are worrying that it might happen. Sometimes, regrettably, it is something that is life and death and you approach that situation with the gravity it deserves.
However for the most part you are worrying about something that could or has happened that won’t have a major impact on your life – it is more an annoyance, an inconvenience or a minor setback. In a week or a month it won’t hold anywhere near the importance it does today and in a year you will almost certainly have forgotten about it altogether.
If something negative has happened, a setback or failure, that you may or may not have caused, you have certainty. The certainty is that there is nothing you can do to change that outcome BUT there is everything you can do to change the way you think about it.
Instead of allowing your mind to spiral down into a whirlpool of negative thoughts and self-pity you can reflect and reframe the situation in a positive way. You can evaluate whether an unexpected opportunity now presents itself. List in your own mind the benefits accruing from this setback or failure. What different options do you have or actions can you take as a result? Rewrite the story and change your perception of what has happened so that the reality is more positive. So it becomes an opportunity not a problem.
Similarly, you might be worried and feeling negative about something bad that could happen sometime in the future. Assuming you have no control over whether or when this situation occurs, your negativity creates a whole world of painful uncertainty for you.
There are several ways you can reframe your mindset from negative to positive.
Firstly accept and rationalise that failure is a fundamental part of success. You need to fail before you can succeed. Learning from your failures is another topic for another post but assuming you do, you are one step closer to success.
Try to be the best you can be and succeed every time but expect that you will lose sometimes.
Two prominent examples are Roger Federer and JK Rowling.
Roger Federer is one of the greatest male tennis players of all time and yet, as I write, he has only won 97 out of 147 Finals in which he has competed. I write ‘only’ for effect since he is the best of the best and yet he loses 1 in 3 finals. He knows that even when he plays as well as he can he will lose sometimes.
JK Rowling famously struggled for years before becoming one of the world’s most successful authors. She recalls, “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” Watch here a 3 minute extract of her Harvard University speech Benefits of Failure
Secondly, when you catch yourself worrying about the consequences of something that might happen and which you can’t predict or control, just stop yourself and wrap the thoughts up, as if in a blanket, and put them neatly in a big metal box marked “Future Thoughts”.
Refuse to think about what could happen and instead put them in the box until which time they do happen.
The only exception here is if you feel that you need to think ahead to prepare for possible likely scenarios and if so think as logically and objectively as you can.
You can adopt a new way of looking at your world by reframing negative situations in a positive way.
See opportunity in the challenges you face and learn lessons from the setbacks, using them to grow and knowing that you will be wiser and mentally stronger afterwards. This aspect is an important part of Clough and Strycharczyk’s 4C’s of mental toughness framework within the Learning Orientation subscale from the C of Challenge.
Reframe and repackage your negative thinking about future events and send them to the future.
In addition, be alert to but not alarmed by the prospect of setbacks.
However, it is also important not to live in a fantasy world without any negativity or worrying but instead to manage them by reflecting and reframing in a more positive light.
For more on building mental toughness and turning problems into opportunities contact us.