“Oh yes, I just to need to be more positive," says my friend sarcastically, between sips of her latte. "I’m thrilled my house needs more repairs and I keep receiving bills in the mail! That's just GREAT!"
On this particular day, her reaction struck a nerve, as I had reached my quota of listening to people bully themselves into being positive. Oh yes, if only I were more positive. If only I believed it. I’ll keep trying ...
Well, I’m here to say…or rather scream: STOP BEING POSITIVE!
Seriously, it’s not helping you. It’s like trying to fit into the cutest pair of shoes that you want so badly but the only size available is a half size smaller than your feet. So you push and prod and tell yourself you can do it. You can bend your big toe and walk at an odd angle. Maybe the shoes will stretch if you wear them long enough. That chaffing isn’t so bad, is it?
Yes, it is. The further you push and force yourself into something that doesn’t fit, the more struggle and angst you will feel. I know. I speak from experience. I’ve got the blisters on my feet to prove it.
Am I saying you should be negative? Of course not. But let’s get real.
Because seriously, and quite surprisingly, that is where you will find the true joy of life.
Instead of acting positive (because it is an act, isn’t it?) try out these 4 ACTS to get real and get more joy out of life.
1. Admit the situation sucks.
Your car breaks down. Your lover leaves you for your best friend. Grandma dies. Sometime in your life, and perhaps many times, something will happen that you did not expect or want to happen. And guess what? It sucks. I know you know you that. But maybe you didn’t know it’s OK to admit it sucks. The Positive Police aren’t patrolling your neighborhood waiting to take you in for being pessimistic, I promise.
2. Ask yourself: Can I change this?
Speaking of police, about a week after my late husband Ben passed away after a fatal motorcycle accident, they found his beloved watch. When my father-in-law returned it to me, I asked if I could have Ben back instead. In my crazed state of grief, I kept asking how I could change this situation. While I know Ben’s spirit is with me always and forever, his big blue eyes and tender touch is something I’ll never experience again in this lifetime. Try as I might to change it (and I did try, believe me) I had to admit defeat on this one.
Can you make a change to your sucky situation? If you can, go for it. If you can’t ...
3. Talk about what you can learn from the situation.
One year, Ben and I were traveling with family on a road trip. While the majority of our time was fun, there were a few days it was a bit too close for comfort. After a particularly stressful day, we got to our hotel room exhausted and frustrated. While I stomped around the room like a child getting my stuff together, Ben asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.
“What can we learn from this situation?”
I had never thought about it like that before. Then we discussed it at length and discovered the situation taught us to be more compassionate, practice patience (often a tough one for me) and be more willing to find solutions and compromise.
Taking a moment to talk to someone about what you are learning from a less than ideal situation can uncover some eye-opening surprises. While you can do this exercise on your own, I highly recommend discussing it with at least one other person. It works best when you can bounce ideas off each other and you can each grow from the experience.
4. Seek the joy—not everything sucks!
It’s likely you've uncovered some hidden joy by asking what you learned from the situation, but just in case you didn’t, that doesn’t mean joy doesn’t exist. Take some time to step away from the situation and seek the joy around you. It could be something seemingly simple, like the sun shining on your face, or seeing the smile of someone you love. Start seeing the real joy in life and believe me, it will start growing exponentially.
Just like shoes, there are lots of views in the world. Find the ones that fit you. I guarantee walking through life will be a whole lot easier, not to mention a lot more fun.