“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations”
If you got excited when you read the title of this post because you thought that you were finally going to get some advice on how to turn your goof of a boyfriend into a suave, debonair gentleman—I’m sorry to disappoint you. This chapter is not about changing your man. It is however, about changing your life circumstances and let’s face it—that’s probably going to be a bit more impactful on your overall FabYOUlousness levels.
We all know that life can be a bit of a roller coaster at times with both highs and lows. The highs are awesome—we’re rockin’ our job, our new boyfriend is so dreamy and every day is a good hair day. We are on fire and nothing can touch us.
Until it does.
Not only does it touch us—it straight up sucker punches us right in the kisser. The kisser that we are no longer using to kiss with because Mr. Dreamy left us to hook up with our best friend, which we are convinced is because we’ve let our hair get all frizzy and overgrown due to the fact that we can no longer afford to go to the salon because we got the axe during our company’s last round of lay-offs.
Life is cake when everything is going well, but what do we do when things have gone awry? How can we turn things around and find some good in the crappy hand that we’ve been dealt?
One of my all-time favorite quotes is from the prolific, early twentieth century writer (and early champion of feminism), Virginia Woolf. The quote reads, “arrange whatever pieces come your way”. I love this quote’s matter-of-fact instruction to take whatever pieces that life throws at you and arrange them in such a way so as to make sense of them and create something positive. Now, as an English scholar who studied way more Woolf than any sane person should have to, I’ll admit that I find it difficult to reconcile the fact that my favorite inspirational quote comes from a woman who tried to commit suicide at the age of 22 and later succeeded in that endeavor at the age of 59, but still…it’s a great quote.
The ability to handle life’s curve balls (and occasionally knock one out of the park) is a key component to living a truly FabYOUlous life. The difference between being a victor and a victim lies within one’s ability to take a bunch of crap and turn it into fertilizer. When we can use the painful and difficult trials that we experience as fuel for our personal growth, we can move through any type of hardship with grace and resilience.
When I find myself at life’s poker table holding noting but a hand full of jokers, there are three questions that I ask myself…
1.) Is there something that I could’ve done differently to prevent this fiasco?
2.) Is there anything that I can do right now to improve this situation?
3.) What can I learn from this experience?
Typically, in asking these questions, I will discover that there usually isn’t a whole lot that I can do with question number one. Yes, maybe I could have/should have done something different and (if that’s the case) certainly, I will do things differently in the future—but often, difficult situations happen despite me having done all of the right things in all of the right ways. Life isn’t fair and—like it or not–sometimes we end up facing hardships simply because of the “luck of the draw”.
The second question is one that I can usually do a bit more with. No matter how bad an experience is or how unlucky I’m feeling, I can typically come up with a few things that I can do to improve either the situation or my reaction to it. If I’m facing a financial setback, I can tighten my belt, start clipping coupons or start looking for additional income opportunities. If I’m sick, I can go to my doctor, rest and take my vitamins. Even when I can’t change the situation, I can meditate, journal, exercise or spend time with uplifting friends. These activities might have no impact whatsoever on my circumstances, but they most certainly will have an impact upon my state of mind regarding my circumstances.
The final question is the one that I can do the most with. All situations—good and bad—have so much to teach us. When we look at what’s happening to us, around us or inside of us with the intention of obtaining wisdom, we will never be disappointed. The ability to gain and apply the wisdom gleaned during times of adversity is what sets us apart from those who never experience the fullness of a FabYOUlous life.
In order to learn the valuable lessons found in adversity and thereby turn your joker into an ace, you’ll need to develop your resiliency. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficulties and transform adversity into opportunity. The more resilient we become, the less fearful we’ll be of painful life experiences because we’ll see them for what they are—opportunities to grow into the next, better version of ourselves. Here are some tips on how to facilitate that growth and more quickly turn that joker in your hand into an ace…
1.) Look for the lessons. There is something that can be learned from virtually every situation that we encounter in life. When faced with a problem, choose to change the way in which you view the situation. Instead of a “problem”, see it as an opportunity that is strengthening you for future endeavors. This will allow you to constructively cope with the situation at hand while learning valuable lessons that will benefit you down the road.
2.) Take control of the elements over which you have power. Granted, when faced with a negative scenario, there might not be a whole lot about the situation that you can control. However; researchers have found that optimism levels tend to be much higher in subjects who feel that they have a fair amount of control in their lives; therefore, in order to turn your joker into an ace, it is imperative that you take steps to control those things (no matter how few) that you can. At the very least, learn to control your reactions and attitudes toward what is happening. Additionally, you can take extra steps to control parts of your life that are not directly affected by the situation, i.e. self-care, personal development, relationships with friends/peers etc.
3.) Develop healthy coping skills. We’ve all heard the old adage “life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to what happens”. Well, as cliché as it sounds—there is a lot of truth in those words. Stocking your emotional toolbox with a selection of healthy coping skills that you can pull out and use when necessary is a key skill when it comes to reacting in such a way as to turn your joker into an ace. A few coping mechanisms that you might want to include in your arsenal are: meditation, physical activity, staying connected to positive, upbeat friends, pursuing a range of hobbies and interests so that you are not consumed by the one difficult aspect of your life, leaning on your spirituality/faith, spending time with a beloved pet, getting an adequate amount of sleep and practicing gratitude.
4.) Change your language. No, I don’t expect you to start speaking Swahili or Hindi—I just want you to start using the language that you do speak in a more beneficial way if you want to turn your negative situation around. A great deal of research has been done on the power of our words, and the result of that research shows that speaking just one negative word has the power to generate stress-producing chemicals in our brains which then manifests negative side effects throughout the rest of our bodies. Knowing this gives us a great advantage over those who don’t understand the power of their words. This awareness allows us the opportunity to change the way that we speak about our circumstances. Try swapping the word “problem” for something neutral like “situation” or the word “mistakes” for “lessons”. Another favorite phrase that I like to flip is “I have to”. Instead, I try to say “I get to”. For example, instead of “I have to go for a five mile run tomorrow morning”, try, “I get to go for a five mile run tomorrow morning…yay…” Okay, so maybe this strategy doesn’t always work; still, it does work enough of the time that if used regularly, it can have a significant impact upon the way in which you view your situation.
5.) Stop the comparisons. Here’s a newsflash for you—no matter how rich, smart or good looking you are, there will always be someone out there who is richer, smarter and yes—even better looking. Holding your life and your accomplishments up against those of another is a bad habit that needs to be broken. One way to nip this comparison trap in the bud is to stop idealizing other people and start humanizing them instead. This simply means that you stop putting other people on a pedestal and instead understand that they (no matter how shiny and perfect they look on the outside) are human beings with flaws, fears and struggles—just like you.
6.) See the many shades of grey. I’m not talking about the movie here (though certainly feel free to download and enjoy the movie if that’s your thing—no judgement here, I myself read the books). We are talking instead about the many, many variations that fall between black and white in life. When life is good, it isn’t all good and when life is bad it isn’t all bad. Don’t let one rotten situation convince you that your entire life is rotten. It isn’t. I promise. Yes, you may have one or two joker scenarios in your life that are stressing you out, but I promise you that you also have plenty of good things going for you. The more you see that things aren’t just black or white, good or bad, the more you’ll be able to keep things in perspective and keep from catastrophizing the negative. By focusing your time and attention on the good, you’ll draw into your life more good to focus upon. That’s how it works—every single time.
By being proactive and resilient in the face of adversity, you’ll learn to recognize the aces in your life–even when they are disguised as jokers. This ability to capitalize on seemingly negative situations and turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones is a key indicator of a life of FabYOUlousness–therefore, it is a skill that you’ll definitely want to have as an ace up your sleeve.