In recent weeks, I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from readers asking “how to stay positive” in the face of a difficult job hunt, a tough professional transition or trying personal circumstances such as divorce.
Those of you who know me personally or have worked with me know that I tend to be a pretty optimistic person on the whole. But even I still have occasional down days– days when I am pissed off that something isn’t going right, days where I question my choices, days where I still randomly wonder if I’m on the right path.
It may shock you to know that in my worldview, however, this is not a bad thing.
Doubting where we are, or wondering whether we’ve made the right choices, can be one of the biggest motivators out there to keep refining our lives. I believe that we are here on the planet to constantly grow and learn and develop– each of us for our own reasons, and with our own life lessons to learn– and that that process generally never ends. Once it does, we’re dead– figuratively if not literally.
That said, we all need some strategies for handling those bad days when we feel a creeping sense of dread that it all sucks and it will never get any better.
So how do I “stay positive”? The answers might surprise you.
Answer #1: I don’t– intentionally. On days when it feels really bad– dreadful, impending-sense-of-doom bad– and I can’t pull myself out of a funk, I actually take that as a sign that it’s time to take a break. That looks like the following for me: at least one day a month, I take a hardcore pause from life when I am beat and run down. On that day, I don’t leave my apartment. I curl up with my family, I take naps, I read a good book when the kids are sleeping, I eat a nice dinner with my husband, and I drink a couple glasses of wine. Usually, that mental state that says “screw it, I don’t want to do this any more”– whatever it may be– is a sign that I need to REST.
And predictably, I often find that when I simply take note of that sign and do what needs to be done, I’m back to my optimistic self in no time. Most of my clients also find that if they check out when they need to– including taking a break from a job search for a week when it all feels impossible– they return to the tasks at hand with a renewed sense of optimism.
The yogic principle of consciousness known as Abhisara is a helpful guide here. The short hand version of that principle is that life operates in waves. Waves have peaks and valleys, and you can’t have one without the other.
What that means in practical terms is that because there are no peaks without valleys, you have to fully experience the bad times in order to fully appreciate the good. Fight this current and you will be forever encountering resistance in good times and bad. Learn to surf, and you will get to experience all the wonders that life has to offer.
So, in other words, don’t “stay positive” when life is calling on you to have a moment where you fully embrace the fact that things aren’t going your way right now. You have permission to stop and take care of yourself. If you are encountering resistance, recognize it, and take a break.
Answer #2: I take action. Once I am rested and renewed, I find that the fastest way to shift my mood is to take action in the direction of change. If you’re on a job hunt, this means sending out your resume, hitting a networking event, or calling your mentor for advice. If you’re in a personal transition such as the end of a relationship, this may mean taking steps to start dating again.
The quickest way out of a sense that “nothing will ever change” is to do something that demonstrates that things are changing RIGHT NOW, and that it is within your control to effect that change. You are not a victim. You have the power to do something, however small, that will shift your life in a positive direction.
Answer #3: When all else fails, I create a TFT Moment. What, you might ask, is a TFT Moment? A TFT Moment is a moment in your daily life when you feel Ten Feet Tall. For each of us, the circumstances surrounding that moment are personal and different, but the moment itself feels the same: it is that moment when you are invincible, fully in your power and know that you completely kick ass. It is also the place from which you ideally want to approach any challenge in life, including just having a bad day.
Examples of good TFT Moments abound. In Philadelphia, for instance, locals of all stripes hop out of cabs or detour from their jogging runs on a daily basis to power up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, a la Rocky, and throw their hands in the air when they reach the top. Every single one of them feels like the champion of the world at that moment, trust me.
Similarly, a couple of my clients find their TFT Moment in a winning game of pickup basketball involving some good slam dunks, or in cranking up the tunes at home and dancing around in their underwear.
As for me, well, my TFT Moment generally involves walking the streets of New York with a purpose, in a pair of sky-high heels, with a banging song on my iPhone that makes me feel like a million bucks (right now, that song is Katy Perry’s Roar). When I live in that moment, I am a total effing bad-ass, and I know that pretty much anything is possible for me within the realm of what I can imagine and what I want for myself in this life.
My bet is that you, while sitting here reading this, know exactly what your TFT Moment is, even if you’re embarrassed to admit it. Don’t be! Those moments are what it looks like when you are swimming with the current of life and feeling good. They rock.
And they are also tools. There is nothing wrong with creating a TFT Moment to pull yourself out of a funk, or to get you pumped before a job interview, or to simply have a good time. (Yes, this means that at particularly low moments in my life, I’ve been known to put on a pair of kicking pumps and go for a walk around Greenwich Village for no reason at all, with my own personal soundtrack banging in my ears.)
So when you are feeling particularly low, do not hesitate to whip out the big guns: put on that song, strap on those shoes, and get down with your bad self. Find that moment where you know that anything is possible for you, and live in it for as long as you can. Done right, creating a TFT Moment will put you beyond a place of “staying positive”– it will propel you forward to a place of knowledge that you are on the right path and that it will all work out just fine in the end, because you have the power to make it so.
Which brings me to my mantra of the week: love your life and your life will love you back. I promise.
In the comments below, I want to know: what’s your TFT Moment? Be brave and share it!
Wishing you a ten feet tall week.
PS. Like this post? I’d be honored if you’d share this post with someone you know who could use a pick-me-up today. Do it now.
SHARE THIS POST!