Have you ever had a day where everything is going badly, only for someone to tell you to “cheer up”?
It’s infuriating! Even though well-intentioned, being told to “cheer up”, “smile” or “just be positive” when we are having a bad day is like rubbing salt into the proverbial wound.
It is very interesting that when someone else is having a bad day, we can be objective and see the steps to get back on track. When WE have a bad day, however, it seems like it will never end and we want the whole world to know just how painful it has been.
This quote by C.S. Lewis sums up perfectly how important it is to move forward: “Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”
How Do We End the Negative Thought Loops?
Notice that the subject of this email is called “recovering” from a bad day. Whether you are the Dali Lama, Oprah, or Greg who works in accounting, bad days are going to happen.
What you CAN do is reduce the amount of time it takes to recover from an event you initially perceive as negative.
You probably do not start your day planning on losing your job, having your car get towed, or getting dumped. At best, you start your day hoping for some good things to happen. At worst, you probably expect the day to be another routine affair.
Then the day starts and the roller coaster heads down the tracks: You woke up late. Traffic is crazy. Your friend canceled your weekend plans. And it is not even 8 AM!
Let’s break a bad day down: you expected the day to go one way and it went another. Expectations can be a killer.
Here’s what NOT to do: ask yourself, “what’s wrong with me” or “why is this happening?”
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll immediately come up with theories to support why your day sucks. You amplify your anxiety and depressive thoughts. Not good!
The 3 P’s
Taking a page out of Dan Pink’s book “To Sell is Human”, there is a better way! The following questions were used as a framework for salesmen dealing with continual rejection. You can use this same framework when having a bad day by asking yourself the Three“P” Questions—and coming up with an intelligent way to answer each one:1. Is this permanent?
- Bad response: “Yes. I’ve completely lost my skill for moving others.”
- Better response: “No. I was flat today because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.”
- Bad response: “Yes. I will be single forever”
- Better response: “No. This relationship did not work because we were incompatible.”
2. Is this pervasive?
- Bad response: “Yes. Everyone in this industry is impossible to deal with.”
- Better response: “No. This particular guy was a jerk.”
- Bad response: “Yes. My kids just won’t listen to me.”
- Better response: “No. I have not set appropriate boundaries with my children.”
3. Is this personal?
- Bad response: “Yes. The reason he didn’t buy is that I messed up my presentation.”
- Better response: “No. My presentation could have been better, but the real reason he passed is that he wasn’t ready to buy right now.”
- Bad response: “Yes. I can’t make friends because people just do not like me.”
- Better response: “No. I do not make the effort to follow up with people and will take any relationship coming into my life versus people with similar values / interests.
These questions get you back to neutral ground rather than letting you stew in a quagmire of negativity. The funk of all funks. They open the door for solutions, rather than amplifying the problem. This process helps you “de-funk”...
I’m not saying you’ll suddenly start high-fiving people down the street with a smile on your face because you used this process. But, by answering these questions, they will move you to a ‘3 to 5’ on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being absolutely gutted and 10 being serenely blissful. The ‘3 to 5’ territory gets you back on track.
You are effectively saying, “Ok, this thing happened (acceptance). Now, what am I going to do about it?”
You are not saying, “This bad thing happened, how can I get this pity-party started?”
When I first started asking myself these questions, it helped to write them down before building the habit intuitively. Your inner dialogue may say, “everyone sucks! The world sucks. I suck!”. These words can hold a lot of power. However, there is something comical in making yourself write it down and even reading it aloud. It will likely sound ridiculous.
The point of using these questions is to get distance from the critic inside you. These questions help you silence your inner Debbie Downer.
This is also why we are so fanatical about practicing gratitude at the start of every day. It sets the tone. At least if some bad stuff happens, you have some life jackets to hold onto. It gives you perspective in a Facebook/Instagram-filled comparison world of FOMO.
Trust the process. Ask yourself better questions. Your inner dialogue is the difference between constantly wondering why you are depressed and have trouble leaving your couch versus blasting away obstacles like you are a hero in your own movie.