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February 28, 2023 4 Comments
Today just isn't panning out like thought it would. All your hopes, all your plans, all your preparations, and nothing is going right, causing it all to fall apart. It's an epic fail.
So what next? Well, some say you should make lemonade from lemons and look at the good in everything. I tend to agree.
Just the other day we arrived at the airport for our travel across the pond to New Zealand, only to find out our travel documents weren't sufficient. It's been four years since we last traveled internationally and we misunderstood the new guidelines. Long story short, we didn't go that day. We had to completely re-book our flights. It was a big letdown for sure. We were facing freezing temperatures in Montana and tropical temperatures in New Zealand and one measly sheet of paper preventing us from enjoying the transition. The next day, if you can believe it, our plane needed a small part and the pilot delayed us another day. "The third time's the charm, they say." So on the third day, we finally departed our small hometown in Missoula, Montana only to find ourselves stuck in Denver, Colorado speaking with an agent after agent to book us through to California and finally New Zealand. In the end, we flew separately from Denver but we did finally arrive at our destination, and understandably exhausted after 72 hours of travel.
So we got dealt lemons. How could we make lemonade? What's the silver lining? Well. We don't always know. That's the tough part. We tend to think short term and allow the moment we are living in now to dictate our feelings, emotions, reactions, and behaviors. For me, however, it's easy to remember my childhood training. I had great parents that intentionally encouraged solution oriented thinking. They'd say things like, "It wasn't meant to be," and "there's some unknown reason you weren't meant to be on that flight."
I like that thought. It's powerful and positive.
It doesn't really matter if it's true or not. It's lemonade from lemons. It produces a better reaction from me. It helps me cope with the letdown. It's okay to have coping strategies. It's natural. It's imperative. It's nice when you have the awareness to choose your strategy for coping. My friend chooses anger. Nobody enjoys watching that. My other friend chooses cynicism and complaining. It's also ugly. My father, rest his soul, always chose reasoning. "There must be some reason." Now, in tough times, I often find myself trusting I'm better off for it (whatever it is) because stewing about it is causing harm to myself and the people around me.
How does it all apply to you and your experience?
Perhaps you're all geared up to go enjoy a nice horse ride today and your horse shows signs of lameness. Or perhaps your horse decides today is the day he won't get in the trailer or even let you catch him. Or maybe, it starts out well, but midway through your ride, your horse decided to buck you off. The point is, you got dealt lemons, and you don't get what you prepared for mentally and emotionally, and now you're feeling like a failure and the weight of the let-down is overwhelming.
First... It's natural to feel heavy feelings. You don't have to stack negative associations to the reality that you're human and feel guilty for feeling defeated. It's okay... sit up, start over! Second, it's time to make lemonade. Remember the phrase, "There must be some benefit to all this I don't know yet." Use that phrase, or any like it, to open your lungs so you start breathing again because when you're breathing you're able to think about what comes next. You're able to escape the panic of the moment.
From the outside, you can hear my story of working hard to fix the immediate problems at the airport, speaking with agent after agent as other worried customers line up behind me. You can imagine the stress building with no immediate solution. But, if you're honest, even if you can relate, it's all imagined at a comfortable distance. It's easy to cope with because it's just in your imagination. Plus, it's an obvious first world problem. Things could be much worse. (Also a useful perspective when managing stress.) But when it's you in the arena, facing whatever problem, covered in dust and blood and sweat, working toward a new solution that just doesn't present itself yet, find a way to fill your lungs. Oxygen is important for your brain function. Emotional control is important for the people around you. Hold it together until the worst has passed and then keep on looking for the next step forward.
The irony is, nearly everyone persists. Stories like mine, and thousands of others, are sort of redundant in the big scheme of things because people figure their stuff out in time regardless. My hope is that you remember your resources. Very few people give up and hide in their homes for the rest of their lives, afraid to take on challenges for fear of possible failure. I don't for a second, believe you're one of those people that give up. I believe you'll persist to live life in a grand way, day by day. But as you're doing it, journal the epic failures and the resources you need to navigate them.
In my own journals I've discovered four resources:
One. Look for the silver lining early and at the very least, believe it's there even if you can't see it yet.
Two. Breathe, because the brain needs oxygen.
Three. Persist to find a solution. Don't give up even if it takes a day or two. People give up way too quickly. Don't be that person.
Four. When a solution finally presents itself, and the pressure is off, record everything and prepare next time, both emotionally and logistically. Prepare for outcomes you don't think can happen by journaling and role playing solutions for potential problems in the future. I don't just mean logistically sound solutions. I mean, practice emotional stability in the midst of the storm. I mean, practice what you learn on an energetic level, not just logistics.
What resources have you discovered? I hope you've written them down.
In conclusion... if you ask me what I believe about life, I believe you have to pour as much positive energy into any situation to give yourself and your circumstances a chance to shine. So whatever you're facing, and I truly believe this about you, you got this!
Comment below. We all love your feedback.
Don Jessop, author of Leadership and Horses
PS: The cover photo is a school picture of me from 1988. My wife asked me recently if there is any part of myself I'd like to see more of and for my answer, I showed her this photo. I told her the look in my eyes is full of unbeatable determination, passion, softness and forgiveness, and playfulness, all wrapped up in one moment. That look lives on in me and daily, I often call those characteristics into action. Now, consciously, I bring that power forward, even more, especially in tough times. What's your superpower? Find it and hold it close.
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