Chances Are, Your Life Isn’t Ruined

What was your last stomach-dropping, please tell me that didn’t just happen, shall I now throw myself out the window moment?

You know, the kind that sends your stress levels soaring and has you ending the day telling your best friend the nightmarish fate lurking right around the corner.

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard stories about the computer that sparked, smoked, and died in the middle of an important presentation; emails sent to the most spectacularly wrong person; and the lost FedEx package containing a critical client deliverable.

What was your most recent horror?

Okay, now think of one that happened ten years ago.

Whatever it was (can you even remember?), I’ll bet ten to one odds it didn’t ruin your life. And I’ll lay the same odds that it consumed a boatload of energy.

I recently had dinner with good friends from my long-ago public accounting days at Coopers & Lybrand. As Paul, Sherri, and I started tripping down memory lane, we realized that while we could remember many moments of angst and how important it all seemed, most of the details were long gone. Even more significantly, none of it matters today.

I can’t help wondering what I might have done with all that energy.

Next time you find yourself in one of those oh dear (substitute your favorite word ;-)) moments, try any or all of these three steps:

  1. Stop. Breathe. Again. And if you’re still feeling freaked, do something that helps you relax – take a walk, take a drive, sit under a tree and find animal shapes in the clouds.

    Whatever is happening will still be there when you return, and you’ll be much better equipped to fix it, weather the storm, or let it go.

  2. Picture yourself ten years from now and imagine the impact of your current situation.

    Play it out to its most extreme conclusion, making it as absurd as possible. Then put on those reality lenses and consider the most likely impact.

  3. Pull out a piece of paper (or plunk down in front of your computer) and write down every possible learning opportunity that this current “disaster” has created for you.

    Yes, it would be lovely if all our lessons came in pretty packages, but in fact it’s just the opposite. One of my friends calls it an AFGO: another flippin’ growth opportunity. If you say it with a smile, it’s an awfully handy expression.

No one likes making mistakes, hearing negative feedback, being treated in a way that feels unfair, or the myriad of other events that can send any of us spinning. But the more you keep them in perspective, the more energy you’ll have for what really matters to you … like living your day the way you want to live your life.

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