Get some perspective on things that matter

These ways of thinking, acting and believing will help you through life’s ups and downs.

1. One story about a person is just one story, not the whole person.

Think about a moment in time when you were at your worst, a time you might rather forget. Or even a longer period of time when you were just really in a funk. Did anyone notice? What if that got you labeled and that’s all you were ever seen as? That wouldn’t be fair. And it would probably have some negative consequences, like people not being as friendly with you or not giving you opportunities you might like to have. Maybe you’d miss out on friendships because people have “heard about you.” Everyone loses when we start letting individual instances or judgments determine how we see people and situations. Those who are unfairly judged are hurt, and so are those who don’t keep an open mind about people and possibilities.

What’s one thing you could say to someone who has been unfairly hurt or judged that would make them feel better?

2. There are no failures, only feedback.

Have you ever tried something and felt like it just totally didn’t go the way you hoped? Did it feel like a failure? Did you try again? What happened the next time? Anytime something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to you have a choice: You can view it as a failure or you can view it as an opportunity to learn from the feedback you got. Failure is what didn’t happen; feedback is what did happen. It is said that it took Thomas Edison 1,000+ tries before he got the light bulb right. It is not just that he was persistent, it is also what he must have said to himself each and every time he tried something new: “That’s one less thing I have to try.” If, like Edison, your emphasis is on getting to the outcome and being able to learn from the process, you will bounce back much more quickly and easily.

Think of a time when something didn’t go as planned and you quickly labeled it as a failure. How did that make you feel? How could you have viewed the situation as positive instead of negative?

3. The person with the greatest flexibility has the best chance to make things better.

Have you ever been out with friends with what you thought was a plan and then something goes wrong? Maybe the movie you wanted to see is no longer playing. Or the restaurant you were going to is closed. Some people get really upset when things don’t go the way they thought they would and that makes it hard to see other possibilities. Other people go with the flow and view the unexpected as opportunity. That’s called flexibility. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to be resilient and be the person to direct change, especially positive change.

What’s one minor thing you could change or adjust in your schedule today that would create a positive outcome? Be flexible.

4. The more time we spend in the stress response, the less resilient we become.

Think about how you feel when your stress level is really high. Most people get very focused on immediate gratification when they are stressed out; usually doing whatever they can to try to get rid of the stress. When we are like this we are less able to consider the impact our decisions or behaviors will have on others. The same is true of others. When they are super stressed, they might not treat us very well. Doing as much as we can to prevent stress increases choice, options and a sense of control.

Jot down something that is frustrating or stressing you out. Then, list 3-5 things that could help manage the stress you experience in that situation. Examples might include deep breathing, going for a walk, or talking with a friend or parent.

5. Everyone has a unique map of the world.

Is there someone in your life who you respect and care about but who sees the world differently from the way you see it? Someone with different political or religious views? Someone who likes things you dislike? Probably so. Each person sees and experiences the world differently. No one is accurate or right in their reality, they just are. When we understand that and learn to respect other people’s “maps of the world,” we become more resilient. That does not mean we have to like, agree or be the same as each other. Respect leads to understanding, and understanding leads to compromise, negotiation and change. Without respect there is judgment. Judgment leads to bias, conflict and not being able to move forward.

The next time you feel challenged by someone else’s opinion, pause, take a couple slow deep breaths and think how your reaction or decision can lead to an improved outcome.

6. Once in a while, we need a Mental Remix.

Let’s go back to the map analogy. Google maps and GPS directions don’t always match the actual streets, houses or buildings in an area, right? In the same way, the maps or filters we have in our minds (see #5) don’t always match what’s happening in our lives. When this is the case, when our lives are going ways that don’t fit with what we want or expect, it causes a stress response. This is much like how a traveler on a road trip might panic if the directions said take Exit 3C to the east at 7th Street and there was no exit at 7th Street. The more we can be aware of our maps, the more we can adjust and adapt as needed. We can change the way we are thinking, change what we’re doing or both. We call this Mental Remix.

We all experience stress. It’s how we deal with it that makes a difference in our overall perspective. Mentally remix your next stressful event and write down three ways you can turn things around.