When faced with adversity, we can:
1. Get stuck (scientific term…) and circle around where we currently are
2. Make it Worse (we’ve all been there…)
3. View the setback as an opportunity for growth
This third path is one of life’s great success strategies. Instead of being paralyzed by obstacles, we are energized by the challenge and seize the opportunity to grow.
This week we are looking at some of the key lessons of Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage around how the brain works. When we are stressed or in crisis, however, instead of rising up, too often we shut down.
The question is: can we learn how to choose our response rather than react emotionally?
Strategy one: Change the Counterfact. Imagine for a moment… I’m waiting in line at the bank, and an armed bank robber shows up. Crap. Not only that, but before we know it, I get shot… in the arm. Holy crap. It hurts like Hell! Of all the people in the bank, I’m the one who got shot?!? Talk about THE worst day ever!!
If I was hit three inches to the right, I’d be…
So, which is true? Both. Being shot would certainly qualify as one of the worst days ever AND we would be fortunate to be alive. So, where do we focus? Strategy one is choose the better “counterfact.”
Strategy two: Change Our Explanatory Style:
When faced with tragedy or adversity, we have a choice how we see things, Sheryl Sandberg writes in her powerful book, Option B which she wrote after her husband died. Citing the research of Martin Seligman, she suggests we ask: do we personalize what has happened? Is it pervasive? And, will it be permanent?
Option one: It’s my fault. My whole life is awful. And, it’s always going to be awful.
Option two: It’s not all my fault; it won’t impact every aspect of my life; and however bad this is, at some point, it will get likely better.
Reflection: Is it all my fault? Does it impact all areas of my life? Might it get better?
Action: Choose a recent difficult situation. Intentionally choose a different counter-fact.