A stranger recently shattered my friend’s car window and stole our bags.
… In broad daylight.
… In the middle of the city.
Barring my wallet and phone, my bag contained all the things I regularly use: my metro card, running shoes, journal (“Oh no! They stole my best thoughts!”), my phone charger, and so on.
You know, all the things supporting the convenience and comfort of my everyday routine.
As soon as we saw what happened, I grappled with the immediate and conditioned urge to get angry and cry at the unjust thievery of ALL OF MY FREAKIN’ STUFF (!!!).
But I kept my cool.
I remained calm in part because my friend was quite upset and I didn’t want to amplify heightened emotions with my own tears and choice curse expletives; in part because we had come from a really fun painting event that had us in high spirits; and in large part because I focused my thoughts on finding a solution rather than dwelling on the problem.
Instead of allowing my mind to focus on what I had lost or my anger at the thief’s audacity, I consciously chose to shift my thoughts towards the immeasurable sea of things – tangible and intangible – I still had, and how fortunate I was to have anything of such apparent value that someone would want to steal it.
Even more, I could relatively easily replace it all and make rent that month.
My point: There is always a way to turn a negative situation into an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
I chose to use this situation to try to practice gratitude, as difficult as it was at certain moments.
At the end of the day, getting upset was a choice. Being flame-throwing angry at the situation would be no one else’s fault but mine.
While you should allow yourself to feel every emotion, whether it be excitement or anger, you should not allow negative emotions to control you.
Rather than choosing (yes, choice is involved here) to succumb to negative emotions, approach every situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. In doing so, you will navigate life with much less stress and unhappiness because you always positively gain by learning.
This experience helped reinforce in me a lot of things I think we all would like to work on.
You Cannot Let The Ease of Wallowing In Self-Pity Overcome You.
Wallowing is for people who want to be stuck. Wallowing is a choice. Woe is NOT you.
In a Success Magazine piece entitled “Things Change… Deal With It,” author Ann Smith says that to get out of a negative situation, you must remember that you are empowered to make change, rather than accepting your position as a victim.
In a separate TUT.com article, contributing writer Amanda Merit adds, "everything is happening for us, and not to us..."
Instead of incessantly vocalizing anger, I instead chose to focus on solution-focused thoughts, where I considered what my next steps should be to move on from the situation, how fortunate I was to have had my wallet and phone, and how I was forced to finally buy the new running shoes I had been putting off purchasing for weeks.
Things Are 100% Replaceable.
As I explained the incident to my inquiring friends and family, I couldn’t help but notice that I kept assigning a price to each stolen article. I rattled off the list of stolen items, highlighting my “$120 running shoes, $110 Metro debit, and $100 hair straightener.”
Sure, it would be inconvenient to replace my things. But, more importantly they are replaceable. Things do not define happiness, so long as we don’t allow them to.
And how spoiled are we so as to cry or get angry over material possessions?
Come on, we are way deeper than that.
There Is Always A Positive Perspective.
Your life is as crappy as you perceive it to be and, equally, as amazing as you perceive it to be.
It takes routine mental practice and purposeful directing of your thoughts to do so, but practicing positive perspective is a powerful way to keep your mojo in check when things go awry.
Author Paulo Coelho has enlightened millions of readers to the power of perspective in his New York Times bestseller The Alchemist. Coelho recounts a shepherd boy’s experience having all of his money stolen by a con-artist while traveling in an unknown land in which he is a total stranger. Coelho says of the boy:
"As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as a victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.
‘I’m an adventurer in quest of treasure’ he thought to himself.”
Perhaps we are all shepherds on our own adventures.
Tough Times Can Zap You With Some Serious Inspiration.
That’s exactly how I got the inspiration to write this piece.
In some cases, you can even recount life’s mess as a funny story. You can tell a story more than one way, simply by adjusting your tone and expressions. Before you know it, you’re basically Tina Fey.
Let’s just say I got a few laughs from this little adventure.
The More You Practice Hitting Curve Balls, The Better Your Swing Becomes.
I’ve been thrown quite a few curve balls over the past few months, and sometimes I swear if its not one thing, its another.
At times I’ll groan, “I can’t catch a break!”
But I follow it up with, “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Because honestly, it feels damn good to successfully maneuver and rise above a tough situation. It feels better to be a pioneer and take ownership of the direction of your thoughts, attitude, reactions, and life, than to whine and retreat.
Little by little, with every curve ball lugged our way, we have the chance to become more powerful.
Bad Times Make The Good Times THAT Much Better!
When you feel like a bad day will last an eternity (I am so guilty of this), remember that a good day is just around the corner. With a little perspective and gratitude, allow life’s challenges to remind you just how amazing your life really is, and that you can’t have rainbows without rain.
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