18, Dec, 2013

Setbacks: Opportunities in Disguise

When you’re presented with a setback on the way to your destination, does your brain scream out, “Game over!” ? Or are you energized and spurred on to innovation and expanded creativity? Attitude is everything, and perception is reality. When you allow yourself to perceive setbacks and challenges as opportunities in disguise, you are rocketed into the realm of new possibility. But how do you maintain an attitude that welcomes challenges and obstacles?

The key is cognitive, it’s in your thoughts. Everything you think, say and do creates a physiological and psychological reaction…at a cellular level. Let’s say you’re working toward a deadline, and all of a sudden you’re presented with a problem, and you think, “Oh no, I’m screwed. I’ll never get this project finished on time.” If you accept that thought as truth,  you feel frustration, or anger or even self-pity. The negative thought has become an affirmation, a statement of being.

If you embrace the negative thought/affirmation with its resulting negative emotion, and you roll with it, you will at some point take action — negative action that gets you deeper into the emotional quagmire. The negative increases exponentially. That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that the positive also increases exponentially, and it’s a lot more fun! The practice of consciously thinking upbeat, self-enhancing thoughts is so powerful that it actually creates increased levels of “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which results in elevated mood, reduced stress, and a feeling of well-being. When you accept and embrace the upbeat thoughts, you generate positive emotions that spur you on toward positive, productive action.

The average person experiences about 60,000 thoughts per day, and a great deal of them are unconscious thoughts, so you can’t police your thoughts to control the negatives. The most practical way to counteract negative thoughts is to create a flow of super-positive thoughts, empowering emotions and self-enhancing statements throughout the day. You can accomplish this by employing techniques:

Positive self-talk…give yourself encouraging pep talks, like a coach or best friend might do, but do them for yourself, and listen!

Affirmations…create a list of self-enhancing statements to read or recite to yourself daily. These are best if read or recited aloud, just before you lie down to sleep.

Mindfulness meditation…build your present-moment consciousness, one day at a time. Experience the present moment, employing all your senses, and observing thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Simply allow yourself to “be” in the moment.

When you maintain your positive attitude using the above strategies, you are ready for anything. I recently made a 3,000 mile, east to west trek across the U.S. in my Honda Civic, and while journeying through Texas, an ice storm blew in, causing the authorities to close I-10 at El Paso.

I didn’t freak out…instead, I made adjustments to my plans. Weather is a game changer, but needn’t be a game ender. Fortunately for me, I found myself in the Austin area when the storm hit, stayed in a motel there till the road cleared. During the setback, I made contact with former colleagues, did research on my next book, did a couple of radio interviews, and enjoyed the opportunity to meditate and visualize. I love the Lone Star State, its people, culture and scenery, and the stopover energized me. The setback morphed into a creative jackpot. When I reached California, I wrote a different version of this post on WordPress, but accidentally deleted it after completion. Setback? No, only an opportunity to write a tighter, bouncier second version.

I made it to the West Coast!

I made it to the West Coast!

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