Continually overreacting to external events is absolutely exhausting!
Do you have those days when you go to bed and wake up still feeling tired?
Do you arrive at work having to force yourself to gather the umph to act as if you still like your job?
Learn how to break this cycle with the book, LIVE IT! Mastering Positive Attitude Habits, 15 Practical Tips For Managing Your Mindset
External: “2. Coming from or derived from a source outside the subject effected. Coming from or relating to an outside institution.”
Event: “A thing that happens.”
On an average day, typical events are short-lived. A conversation, an unexpected encounter, a disappointment…the event happens and it passes – unless we keep thinking about it. When we keep thinking about troublesome events, we extend the length of the event. When we repeatedly retell the story of the event, we extend the impact of the event and pass it on.
Our attitudes derail when we react to external events (the things going on around us that we can’t control) with an inappropriate amount of emotion and continued focus. If you interpret external events as personal wrongs, then you automatically spend valuable energy on negativity. When you do this and don’t realize YOU are creating the negativity, not the person who took an action that was quickly over, then your lack of self-awareness is a major factor in unnecessary levels of negativity.
Here are some common examples of when this dynamic is in play.
The drive to work: someone pulls out in front of you and you take it personally, as if the person was waiting for you, recognized your car, and intentionally interrupted your otherwise smooth commute. Especially if you mis-managed your time and you are running late, then anything that happens on the drive to work can get blown out of proportion.
Parking space availability: if you drive to work, there’s a chance you park in the same place every work day. If that’s the case, what happens when someone else parks in that space? “Someone parked in MY space!” – frustration! Aren’t we funny? It’s not your space. Is it really so hard to park in another space? We get so hooked into patterns that make us feel in control.
One of the companies I work with assigns parking spaces to employees. I think it’s a good idea because it’s one less decision employees have to make before they clock in. Somehow, assigned parking spaces feels like a perk.
Along these same lines, mid-semester in my classes I asked people to change seats. I explained the importance of working successfully wherever we sit, and the value of being able to adapt to sitting near different people. I told students how important it is not to get locked into environment norms because as long as they worked for someone else, those choices were going to be out of their control. For some people, changing seats created an avalanche of emotion and teenager-like displays of resistance. I’d ask, “If you get this upset over sitting in a different seat in the same room, what’s going to happen when your employer asks you to do something that is actually difficult?”
I know of an organization in which people arrived to work one Monday morning and their offices had been packed over the weekend and moved to a different building – with no communication to let them know the change was going to happen. Imagine how that felt for them! In my opinion, the way the change was managed was incredibly disrespectful to employees, but it proves my point of having to adapt quickly to decisions made by others.
Even as consultants, the trainers on our team are constantly having to flex to schedule changes based on the needs of our clients, so even if you have your own business, the decisions and actions of others will impact you – and your attitude if you allow it.
The drive home from work: this is another point in the day where people can create difficulty for themselves because of set patterns. If traffic or other issues frustrate you on the drive to or from work, consider different routes (if you have options). I once lived in a place that required crossing a highway if I took one route. That was frustrating most of the time due to actions of oncoming drivers. The alternate route seemed longer, but I decided to try it. It was a much more beautiful drive to my destination, so the stress was completely minimized. It was only about two minutes longer than the other route, and that was only if I could get right out across the highway – many times I had to sit there for more than two minutes, so the alternate route was comparable. Yes, you are dealing with circumstances beyond your control no matter which route you take, but trying something different might lessen the impact of other people.
The name of day of the week: there are seven days in the week, so “Monday” represents one seventh of your life. The days of the week aren’t even real – we came up with it so we could have an organized society. I often enter organizations and ask, “How’s it going today?”
Many times the answer is, “Well, you know, it’s Monday,” (Victim expression on face).
If I’m in the mood to capture the coaching moment, I might say, “Yes, Monday represents one seventh of our lives. I’m having a good day.”
The concept of Monday is very strong in our culture. T-shirts and coffee mugs have been designed to read, “I don’t do Mondays.” Great, because we’ve decided not to pay you on Mondays!
It’s the same thing with morning. People say, “I’m not a morning person.” Okay – then don’t take a job that requires you to work in the morning! If you do take a job that requires you to work in the morning and you talk about not being a morning person, imagine how you would feel if your manager responded, “That’s okay, we’ll just pay you half days since you aren’t at your best in the morning.”
The weather: this is another external factor over which we have zero control. There are some people who like to complain about the weather no matter what conditions the weather brings. In the winter, they are too cold. In the summer, they are too hot. Unless it’s 72 degrees with a perfect breeze, they aren’t happy. Really? What if the settlers were so wimpy?
The attitudes of your coworkers: how does one bad apple spoil the whole bunch? Because the positive apples start focusing on the bad apple, and then they become bad apples too. Unfortunately, one positive person doesn’t seem to be able to influence a negative group, but one negative person can exhaust a positive group. It’s tiring to tolerate negativity and incompetence. This is why it’s so important for supervisors and managers to hold employees accountable to behaviors that represent the job description metrics and company values behaviors.
If your supervisor or manager allows negativity from one or two people on the team, then you must limit, to the best of your ability, the impact those negative people have on you. First, stop watching them. Second, if possible, stop listening to them. Can you wear a headset? Can you request a move?
What if you don’t have these options? This is tough. I’ve seen organizations lose fantastic employees because supervisors or managers lacked the will and skill to pursue the process for either mentoring the negative people to changed behaviors or documenting the impact of the negativity and incompetence so the progressive discipline process could be initiated. If you’ve tried everything you know how to do and the situation is still intolerable, or having such a negative impact on you the trade-off isn’t worth it, I encourage you to pursue other options. For some reason, negative people seem to have an enormous desire to stay in situations that make them unhappy, so their stamina to outlast you is likely. Why not make a change now and get yourself into a more positive situation?
There comes a point at which you no longer get to blame others for your attitude. Once you see the situation for what it is and recognize the situation is not likely to change anytime soon, it’s up to you to take action for creating a more satisfactory situation for yourself.
If your ‘resolution’ requires suffering on someone else’s part, then you are priming yourself for a negative attitude. For example, if you find yourself stuck in a repetitive pattern of thoughts that sound like, “I’ll be happier once this person quits or dies,” then it’s probably a good idea to take a different approach for the sake of your own health and well-being.
This applies to your personal circumstances too. Hoping something dreadful happens to an ex so you can feel somehow redeemed is not the healthiest mindset for positive attitude habits!
Avoid making your positive attitude dependent on external conditions out of your control. Ask yourself, “Is this in my control or out of my control?” If a shift in your mindset and attitude habits is dependent on someone else changing, that’s out of your control. Change your criteria for a shift, and take action on that shift immediately!
LIVE IT! means it’s okay to get agitated over little things, but it’s not okay to extend those little things into all day moods. Don’t hand your attitude over to external events beyond your control and influence.
This chapter in the book includes limiting beliefs, supporting beliefs, an action planner, and illustrations.
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