In college my room mate was one of those perpetually perky people. In a visceral reaction to her unrelenting positivity, I responded with sharp-tongued barbs intended to wilt her enthusiasm. It never did—no matter what obstacle or barrier I presented, she found a way around it.
As I growled and sniped, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she always came out on top of the situation. As an over-achiever, this was irritating to me—but it turned out to be a game-changer.
As I moved into the real world after graduating from college, the obstacles and barriers popping up in my life seemed to take on new, gigantic proportions. The sarcasm and negativity that had seemed clever in the old days no longer seemed so witty.
When I applied to the FBI as a new agent, I quickly discovered that, while no one could be called perky, most agents could be described as possessing unrelenting positivity. Even when life sucks, a case looks hopeless, or a barrier appears unsurmountable, there are differences between agents who survive and those who thrive in their circumstances.
The game-changer for me came when I finally understood that mental toughness is unrelenting positivity in the midst of uncertainty and risk. The strong minded know how to look for the positive when life sucks. Follow these tips:
1. Accept That Reality Will Change
Life evolves, so be smart and stop acting surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.
2. Change Is Always Preceded By Chaos
Arrests are a mix of organized chaos. As much as FBI teams would prepare for an arrest, there was always the element of the unknown—would the suspect shoot, grab a hostage, or go berserk? Chaos can keep us on our toes to anticipate the unknown, and the changes it will bring with it. This means being diligent, alert, and aware of our surroundings.
3. Choose Your New Reality With Intention
As situations change, you will be presented with multiple new realities and you will have an opportunity to chose your new one. Choose the one that is most likely to lead to positive growth.
4. Chart Your New Reality With Care
Be aware that most of us automatically look at change as a negative experience. As a result, you tend to look at your new situation as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Once you realize this, you strengthen your mind to accept your new direction with a more positive attitude.
5. Take Small Steps
Your emotional, survival-driven brain will feel safer if you take the time to chart your new reality with small and positive steps. With each success, you will train your brain to feel more comfortable with taking more, and eventually, bigger steps toward your new reality.
6. Reframe Your Situation
As long as you are learning, you’re are growing. Even if the circumstances are not ideal, or of your choosing, there is always something good to take away from them. Reframe your situation by asking a simple question: “What am I learning from this?”
It is not always easy to find the positive when life throws us a curveball. But reality changes with every shift of thought and attitude. For me, the reality I am experiencing today is not what it was when I was a student. Mental toughness is that strength of mind that allows us to react with agility and flexibility when confronted with the unexpected.
How have you found the positive when life sucks?
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