When Bad Can Actually Be Good For You

You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to

Robin Williams

Humans love comfort and familiarity. We do whatever it takes to bring joy and happiness into our lives, and will go out of our way to avoid pain, discomfort or anything we consider to be bad. This approach, however, can actually be holding people back in their lives.

Failure and painful experiences, two of the things which many people fear above all else, can actually be good things. They are also some of the scariest things imaginable, because failure and negative experiences can lead to feelings of loss, unhappiness and uncertainty. In order to avoid these negatives, we become risk-averse. In real terms, this means that we become less willing to take calculated risks in our lives and really challenge ourselves. Instead, we seek the security of the known and the familiar. This is fine if you are happy with the life you create for yourself through this approach. After all, isn’t that what we truly want – to design a life for ourselves and become the kind of person who makes us happy? The problem arises when people are unhappy with what they have become, and the life they now have, through playing it safe.

Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing amount of business and entrepreneurship literature which points to the positive side of failure and bad life experiences. As with everything else, it’s not the event, situation or circumstance which we need to pay attention to. We often have no control over that. For example, a business fails because one of the partners have been stealing money, or we are struck down by a sudden and serious illness. Very little, if anything can be done about that, so it doesn’t help to focus on it and become stressed, upset or give up.

Rather than focus on the issue itself, be mindful of how you are reacting to it. This is at the heart of maintaining perspective and developing resilience, two traits which are shared by many of today’s most successful people.

Mindfulness is not a fancy buzzword, but an essential part of living a happy life. At its core, mindfulness is about self awareness. It’s about having a good idea of who you are, how far you’ve come in life and how far you still have to go. It’s being aware of your own set of values and beliefs, and what is important to you. It’s knowing what you are, and are not, prepared to accept in life, what is non-negotiable and which areas are open for compromise.

Beating yourself up after a failure, or when you find yourself in a painful situation, will get you nowhere. It leads you to curse your luck and seek to lay the blame elsewhere for what went wrong. It can eat away at your confidence and stop your progress in its tracks.

This is where the shift in perspective comes in very handy. Shift your thinking away  from failure, pain and loss being negative. Instead, frame it as a learning experience, as pain is the best teacher of all.

Failure, pain and loss should, ideally, lead to reflection. If it’s something which we attempted but ultimately went wrong, reflect on what went wrong and why. Ask yourself, what, if you were to attempt it again, you would do differently. Look for lessons to be learned and changes you could make in order to bounce back stronger.

Pain and loss are different, but can still be formative experiences. Take losing a loved one, for example. While we come to terms with the loss, we are also forced to face our own mortality and accept that nobody lives forever. At least not in body. When doing this, ask yourself;

  • Are you happy with where you are in life right now? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • Are you living according to your beliefs and values?
  • What can you do to improve the quality of your life?
  • What is stopping you from achieving or experiencing more of what you want in life?

Bad things happen to everyone, even good people. For some, they can be crushing events from which they never fully recover. For others, they can be the catalyst for real, meaningful change. The deciding factor lies in the space between our ears. Our “little grey cells” as Hercule Poirot often called them determine how we view and react to everything which we experience, good and bad.

Our grey cells might be relatively “little” but they are incredibly powerful. They absorb everything we see, hear and experience before determining whether it is good or bad, positive or negative. In plain English..it’s up to each individual how they perceive the world around them. This is why we need to be self-aware, because once we know what we want from life, and what we attach importance to, this helps to provide a reference point to which we can compare everything that life throws at us. In this way, we know if we are truly happy at any given time, or not. It’s easier to remain positive in the face of adversity when we know that this bad situation will have no real impact on our lives and the direction in which it is headed. That way, we save our worries and energy for those things that do involve us.

Barter (Sara Teasdale)

I love poetry, especially that which leads the reader to feel, think or reflect. Revisiting some of my favourites over the past few days in order to share them with you has reminded me of just how motivational, inspirational, enlightening and enjoyable they can be. The process has been so enjoyable, in fact, that I will be continuing the theme for the rest of the week. In fact, this week shall henceforth be renamed the “Fulfill Your Potential Poetry Week”.

Today I would like to share a poem about mindfulness and appreciation, which is perhaps not as well known as it should be. Modern life is fast-paced and can be very demanding. We are forever in a rush. We are so busy, in fact, that if and when we do find ourselves with some free time, we start to feel uncomfortable and anxious, as though we are forgetting something important. As a result we find it increasingly difficult to stop and take some time for ourselves, which is exactly what the poet is asking that we do.

This is a poem about how wonderful it is to take some time out of our busy days to really see, and appreciate what life has to offer. We are reminded about how much beauty surrounds us and costs nothing to enjoy, yet we are oblivious to it. This is because we find ourselves unable to live in the moment, and to forget everything for a short while as we focus instead on our surroundings.

Even though it was first published a century ago, in 1917, this poem is still relevant today. We are not only surrounded by the wonders of nature, but also some incredible architecture and design. It’s often free to admire and enjoy, but we fail to take advantage of it because we are spending to much time in front of a screen, whether that be a computer or smartphone. So, today, take some time to admire the loveliness that life has to offer. Even if you can only spare 5 uninterrupted minutes for this exercise, your mind and body will thank you for it.

 

BARTER, Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And childrens’s faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstacy
Give all you have been, or could be.

If you don’t take control of your life..

…someone else will. This is why I feel so strongly about why we should become more self-aware, set goals in life and pursue them. It’s why we need passion, purpose and drive, or else life can become uneventful, dull and repetitive.

That is not to say that we need to have it all figured out, but we do need a certain level of direction in our lives. We need to know, roughly, where we are headed. With this awareness, we are less likely to be led astray or manipulated by others. We become stronger mentally, more focused and wiser. We are, essentially, better able to position ourselves to live the life of our dreams.

We also need to have interests which we are passionate about, as this gives us a break from the stresses of life. Being in control of our lives means that we will be immune to the doubts and criticisms of others, and have the strength to do whatever it is that makes our hearts sing. After all, when we follow our passion and share that which we create, we are inspiring others to have the courage to do the same.

Humans are creatures of habit, though. We like that which we know. Hence we develop routines which feel safe and also provide a source of comfort. We also don’t need to think too much when something is familiar. But there is a downside to the comfort of habit and routine, which is best summed up in a quote from the inimitable Charles Bukowski;

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”


Be kind online

We live in a digital, connected, age and more of our lives are being spent online. For a growing number of people, this is their main source of communication, information or entertainment.

Please don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful thing, and opens the door to an incredible amount of opportunities and experiences. There is, however, a dark side of which we need to be aware. Thankfully, with a little effort, we can do something about it. 

The problem stems from how we regard the time we spend online. For some it provides a space in which they can take a break from their daily lives and adopt a new persona, in effect becoming someone else. In person someone might be polite and respectful, only to adopt an online alter ego through which they vent their pent-up frustration anonymously. It”s the lack of empathy in these online interactions which is worrying.

It”s easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment but we must always strive to treat others with respect. Regardless of whether we are communicating and interacting with them online or in person. Growing up, we are taught to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. It is now more important than ever that we remind ourselves of this.

We all have the power to brighten up the world around us and to bring happiness, but it is through our interactions with others that we can achieve this.

We all have frustrations and annoyancestors which build within us, but there are better outlets for this, such as exercising or spending time outdoors in nature. 

Our ultimate aim should be to leave a positive impression on everyone with whom we interact. It is simply not possible to do this every single time, but that does not mean that we should not at least try. We should aim to;

  • Be mindful that there is a real person on the other end of every interaction or conversation. You are communicating with a human being who has feelings which can be hurt by your angry comments.
  • In your online interactions, only say that which you would be prepared to say in person, if the two of you were to meet.
  • Be yourself (unless, of course, you are an entertainer, actor, comedian, musician…). Drop the alter-ego and just be you. This opens the door for genuine interactions which could lead to wonderful new places.
  • Be kind. You have no idea what demons others are fighting, and how much of a positive impact they might experience after some positivity or encouragement from you.

One thing, above all, worth bearing in mind is the permanence of our online interactions. Increasingly,  a prospective client, employer, business partner or date will turn to Google and carry out a quick search of our name in order to get a feel for who we are before meeting in person. So don’t sabotage your future success by saying something online, just to vent your frustratons,  which you would never say in person.