December 12, 2012

Craft Your Better Self: Focus on Happy



Today I had  insight. This doesn't happen often and it doesn't happen spontaneously. If it ever happens, it's only after completely over-thinking something or talking to everyone I know and getting their feedback. Even then it's never sustainable.

This morning I wasn't in the best mood. It was the kind of day where I looked in the mirror and saw the reflection of a tired, wrinkled face. My immediate reaction was, "I look old". I'm 43 and was wearing pink tights and a silver sparkly head band. Not to mention I was trying out a bold new lip color, which made me look super pale.  It was too late to change into age appropriate clothing so I left feeling uncomfortable. It's entirely true, the right outfit can make a difference.

Work didn't help improve my mood. I'm quickly frustrated by lazy. Maybe it's a trait I see in myself and know it's a major flaw. When people make the same mistakes time and again I'm baffled why they 1. don't take assistance when it's offered over and over again. 2. don't look at job aides which will tell them the step by step process on how to do what they aren't doing right. 3. insist it's a workflow error, even though they're the only one who doesn't get it.

Not knowing where to begin with this lazy  work dilemma I decided a bagel and caffeine were needed. I went to the cafe in my office building.

On my way back to my office, we have to go through turnstiles to get to the elevator banks. Swipe your ID through and the turnstiles open. As I was paying attention to nothing, I swiped my card and like magic the turnstile arms went down. Little did I know, because, again, I was in a grumpy mood, there was someone on the other side, trying to make his exit through the same turnstile. One person would have to let the other person go first. Without looking, I stepped aside, knowing that this other person most likely would have plowed me down.  No one came through. It must have been at least 3 seconds!

Frustrated, I looked up to give the evil eye and see what the delay was. To my surprise, there stood an older gentleman looking at me with a big, wide, smile. He politely said, "After you."  I wiped the scowl off my face and  replaced it with a smile.

Here's the insight. Because I was so lost and focused on my own grumpiness I almost missed an opportunity to make things better. It happens in a instant. If you're not paying attention you will absolutely, 100% of the time, miss it. This person was being friendly, polite and offered a smile. His response surprised me, but it was more surprising that it made me feel better!  (I pondered what I looked like to him. Bright lipstick, all bitchy faced.)

There's better stuff all around us, at all times, big and small, where do you want to focus?

  • Do you want to focus on the slow waiter or your delicious food he's delivering? 
  • Do you want to focus on the cold weather or your nice warm gloves you bought on a fun day when your sister visited?
  • Do you want to focus on how crowded the subway is or that you got a seat for once?
I've never been successful at patching a bad mood with a fake smile. If something drastic happens it's hard to find the silver lining. I get it. If you lose your job, your knee jerk might not be, "Well, now I'll have all the time I need to write that book I've always wanted."

It's open season to be grumpy; stores are over-crowded, sales bring out the worst in people, no parking spaces and lots of bad-driver-traffic. All true. What' also true is egg-nog with spiced rum, pretty twinkle lights, vanilla bean scented candles, cookie exchange parties. So much more fun to focus on!

Today, though,  I was in a crap mood because that's where I focused. Instead I'm going to focus on my hot pink tights and not my wrinkled face.