By Robert Pagliarini, Tribune Media Services
A couple of weeks ago I had a bad day. Actually, it was a terrible day. Every piece of news I got was disappointing. Did it affect me? I still have bruises from the rock I tried to hide under.
Guess what? In the coming weeks you will have a bad day, too. Whether you are an entrepreneur launching a new product, an employee aiming for a promotion, or simply someone going after a big goal in your other eight hours, you will experience disappointment and setback. How you respond to disappointment could determine your eventual success or failure. Why? A really bad day can, at best, cause you to lose momentum or, at worst, cause you to lose your will to continue.
Here are five tips to survive a bad day:
1. Don't add more pressure. Forget about turning lemons into lemonade. The first rule to follow when trying to turn around a bad day is to not try to turn around a bad day -- it's nearly impossible, and it puts way too much pressure on you. Your goal should be to survive the day and minimize the long-term damage by agreeing not to make any decisions. After a barrage of bad news, your decision-making ability will be all messed up. Take a break and, if possible, escape ...
2. Escape. It's easy to get too analytical and try to think your way out of a bad day, but often this can just cause you to dwell on the problem. Sometimes it makes sense to escape. Go see a movie. Go dancing. Play with your kids. Do whatever it takes to distract yourself and stop obsessing about your bad day. Your "problems" will still be there when you return, but you'll come at them with a fresh mind.
3. Insulate yourself. One of the best ways to shield yourself from negativity is by wrapping yourself in a "positivity condom." Wake up 10 minutes early and write about the things for which you are grateful on a daily basis. About a week after I started doing this, I got some really bad news. The very first thing I thought was, "This stinks!" I was shocked and angry. After about 20 seconds of this, I thought back to what I had written earlier in the day. It instantly changed my perspective.
4. Eliminate overgeneralization. What happens when you've been doing great on your diet but suddenly find yourself with an empty bag of Doritos in your lap and an unnaturally orange substance covering your hands? Usually generalization. This is where you turn a single negative event into a never-ending pattern of defeat, and it's this kind of thinking that can cause you to give up after a bad day. The solution? Attack the belief. Write down all the reasons why this bad day is really just that -- a bad day -- and not a sentence to a life of failure.
5. Avoid personalization. Personalization is another cognitive distortion. It is when you take credit for an event for which you didn't have any control. Many of the negative events you will face will be beyond your control, but you might blame yourself. Got laid off? It might not have anything to do with you and everything to do with the company, but if you personalize this, you'll beat yourself up over it. Again, the solution is to attack the belief. For each negative event, ask yourself, "Am I responsible for this, or was this outside of my control?"
When you throw down the gauntlet and commit yourself to improving your life, you will face challenges. If you can follow these bad-day tips, you'll keep your motivation, and you'll spend a lot less time under rocks.
Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six Day Financial Makeover." Visit YourOther8Hours.com.
This was printed in the March 28, 2010 - April 10, 2010 edition.