From time to time we end up in unforeseen and unwanted circumstances. It affects our mood, our outlook and drains our energy. It can feel like we have no options.
This happened to me on a recent trip to Nassau to run the Bahamas Marathon. After a 5 hour wait at the airport we were told our flight to Nassau was cancelled. The airline put us on a flight 2 days later. My plan was to arrive in Nassau a week before the marathon so I had time to acclimatize. The delay really mattered to me. Also the only sunny days in the forecast for the week before the race were at the beginning of the week – days I would miss because of the delay. I was grumpy. Thoughts spinning through my head included “Why is this happening now? Why me? Not before my marathon! This situation is going to mess up all my planning and training!” And so on. I noticed the effect this dialog was having on my energy. I realized I had to do something about this quickly or I was going to ruin our holiday and potentially my race.
Here’s the three-pronged approach I used to choose my attitude and deal with my circumstances:
1. Accept what is.
Fighting against what we can’t change accomplishes nothing good. It drains our energy and complaining makes us unpleasant to be around. It also digs us deeper into a hole of believing we are stuck without options. Victims of our circumstances. We have to change the conversation in our head.
What we resist persists. Once we accept what is – the circumstances we cannot change – then we are freeing ourselves up to notice what might be possible even though we don’t like the way things are. As soon as we accept it, our stress levels drop and our energy levels improve. It’s like our field of vision widens when we let go of the tunnel vision of our negative spiral.
Accepting what is, is a choice. Plane cancellations, rainy forecasts – whatever is, is. Focusing on what matters to me more helps me let go of my focus on what I’m unhappy about. In this case, I wanted to preserve my energy for my marathon later in the week. I was on holidays and wanted to be in a good mood to enjoy it as much as possible. When the negative thought spirals appeared, I literally said, ‘let it go’ to interrupt my thought pattern, reminding myself that I wanted to release the negative energy. I said this repeatedly and eventually the negativity diminished. I noticed I began feeling more peaceful. I also took action to change what I could.
2. Change what you can.
While there may be circumstances that we cannot change, there may be aspects of our situation that we can change. Activate your problem solving skills. See what options are available to you and explore possibilities. The airline booked us on a flight 2 days later. I wanted to get there sooner so I called another airline and got us on a flight the next morning for a decent price. While I would have preferred getting out the same day as our original flight, that wasn’t an option. Checking into my flight options gave me a sense of control. Had I not been able to switch to a sooner flight, I would have been disappointed but at least I took action and tried.
When we arrived in Nassau it was raining and the forecast was rain the entire week. I checked out our assigned room at the place where we were staying and knew that I would be unhappy in this smallish room with a lousy view and a deck that would get wet from the rain. I asked the receptionist if another room was available with a better view and deck. There was! It cost more money however it had a full kitchen and we were able to cook some of our meals which ultimately saved us money. The net added expense really wasn’t that much to have a great view with a large dry deck and comfortable living space. I was much happier even though it was still going to rain all week.
3. Focus on the positive
One area where we always have choice is choosing our attitude. Choosing our attitude makes a profound difference. Where our focus goes energy flows. We have the choice of focusing on the positive or the negative. Why not choose the positive and see what shifts? Here are the ‘positives’ that happened on that trip because of the delays and rain:
- I saw Oprah’s acceptance speech live on Golden Globe awards which I likely would have missed had I not been sitting in a hotel room Sunday night. It was an important moment that I’m glad I was able to witness in real time.
- I didn’t get a sunburn and was not dehydrated from lying in the sun too much.
- My legs were well rested for my marathon at the end of the week because the rain was too heavy to go anywhere.
- I had my laptop with me and was able to complete a few work projects sitting outside on the deck looking out at a terrific view. Working in these circumstances was quite decadent!
- The temperature was +25C which was much better than the -25C January weather at home.
I was grumpy when I saw the forecast at the beginning of the week. It wasn’t just showers. It was thunderstorms and pouring rain. However I knew focusing on the rain would drain my energy so I chose my attitude. Glad I did! I had a great week. And you never know when a rainbow will appear.
Dealing With Circumstances Recap
Circumstances can feel overwhelming in the moment. To cope and ultimately create a shift, choose your attitude. Three elements for doing so are:
Accept what is: Develop your capacity to be present in the moment to be able to catch your negative thought pattern and choose to let it go. Let go of what doesn’t serve you to widen your range of vision to notice possibilities that are lurking.
Change what you can: Engage your problem solving skills to see what options are available. Even if you ultimately can’t change anything at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you tried. That you did your best.
Focus on the positive: Every situation can be viewed from multiple perspectives. Choosing to focus on the positives improves our energy, raises awareness of our options and feels better.
Life is filled with unanticipated events and circumstances. Developing our capacity to handle these situations means more ease, joy, fun, accomplishment and peace in our lives – all of which lead to finding our ‘more-in-me.’