Bad days come. With the right technique, you can wrestle them to the ground, put them in a submission hold, and make them apologize for ruining your good mood. Then, you get on with your day. So how do you do that? How can you turn your bad day into a good one?
I’d like to share some of my favorite practices for turning your day around.
Before we dive in, just so you know you’re not the only one, I’ll share two recent discouragements.
Business Blackeye #1
I found out that my team set up the contact form plugin on a website incorrectly. Though this is an easy mistake to make, it smarted this time because my client had received several submissions through the contact form without those people’s email addresses.
Just imagine… The inbound marketing dream finally comes true. New prospects show up in my client’s inbox. Bonafide human beings are interested in hiring him. But wait. He can’t email them back.
My team’s mistake now forces him to Internet stalk those prospects and find some other way to reach out to them. I wrote a Facebook message that he can customize and reuse, but still, what should have been cause for celebration instead created a weird situation for my client.
Not my best day.
Business Blackeye #2
Or how about this clearly hypothetical situation: You launch a Kickstarter campaign for your children’s book called
Grabbling Grannling, and savvy marketer that you are, you decide to reach out to 50 other Kickstarter creators with successful children’s book campaigns.
You plan to ask for advice, knowing, that in doing so, you will also raise awareness for your campaign. You turn on Focus@Will and type out a warm, winsome message that you can use as a template. You start cranking through your outreach.
You discover later that some of the messages were addressed to the wrong person. Or you got the name of those people’s books wrong. Or you got the final dollar amount of their campaigns wrong.
What a clever way to get attention! What an effective way to build authentic relationships!
my your best day.
Some days fall apart before they have really begun:
- You’re late to an important meeting.
- You leave glaring typos on a client’s new Home page.
- A new client gets cold feet.
- You lose a bid to a stuffy agency that will overcharge and underdeliver.
- You lose a project to another writer or consultant whom you don’t respect.
- You find out that an check sixty days late hasn’t even been processed yet and you’ll have to wait even longer.
And you overdraw your bank account.
Not your best day. Correction: not your best days. You’ll have more than one of these lemons that are sour and bitter, mouth-puckering and mood-killing.
So how to you combat discouragement?
I’d like to share some practical strategies for cheering yourself up, bouncing back so that you can turn lemons into a lemonade stand.
No one said this whole freelancing thing was going to be easy.
In fact, in many respects, freelance writing often demands more patience, perseverance, and good cheer than a nine-to-five position. When you run the show, you can’t delegate your mistakes, your oversights, or most client explosions. You have to take responsibility for them even if the fault lies with someone on your team!
Here are some of the ways I bite back my grumbling and self-pity and squeeze the lemons:
#1 Don’t invalidate your feelings.
My mom tells me that when I was little, I would point out a dead animal on the side of the road and say, “It hurts me, Mama.”
I was a sensitive then, and I’m sensitive now. I may pretend like things don’t bother me. The attack on my integrity from a client? The nasty comment left on a Facebook update? The passive aggressive text message?
Sometimes I can’t help but notice these jabs.
Even when I am not in the wrong, I waste time wondering how I could have avoided the situation. I replay scenarios in my head. Should I have acted or spoken differently? I go back, reread emails, second guess my word choice and phrasing and timing.
Imaginary conversations play out in my head like a game of ping-pong. I have the last word. I stand triumphant, absolved of whatever accusation or wrongdoing the guilty party tried to pin on me.
What a waste of my time, brainspace, and emotional reserves!
Some people you can’t please. Some people kindness won’t kill.
Some people are bullies. They take a dash of truth, mix it with liter of lies, and throw the mixture in the face. They try to power up on you, stick a dagger of fear in your heart, ruin your reputation.
You’re so shocked, you don’t know how to respond.
They attempt to shame you with passive-aggressive quips or strong-arm you with emotionally charged emails.
When you refuse to be pushed around, speak the truth, and establish boundaries, they act as though you are overreacting. “What’s the big deal? Don’t get your panties in a wad.”
Worse, they may play the victim: “I made a simple request, then Austin cut off communication. Very disappointing. Very unprofessional. I really question Austin’s integrity as a businessman.”
I am a sensitive, and my sensitivity is one of the things that makes me good at my work. I need it in order to bring my best. So how do I bounce back from emotionally draining interactions when I know that emotional resilience is one of the hallmarks of strong leaders?
How do I regain the enthusiasm, optimism, and kindness? How do I open back up the spring of creativity that gets clogged by unfairness, rudeness, or vindictiveness? How do I press back into my day?
I start by acknowledging what I feel. I allow myself a few minute to feel angry, sad, betrayed, disappointed, afraid, anxious, or weary.
Then, I get on with my day.
#2 Buy yourself a coffee.
It’s a small thing, but it works for me. I will often pack up my satchel, go to my favorite coffeeshop, and drown my sorrows in caffeine.
You accomplish several things here:
- You activate yourself. You literally get moving. It’s harder to wallow in self-pity in a public place.
- You mode-shift. The context in which you work is important, so if you’re at home or at your office and you get some bad news, pick up your things and leave. When one work environment gets polluted with negativity or frustration, seek out fresh environment.
- You enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, and enjoying one of life’s simple pleasure’s has a way of bringing perspective.
#3 Go for a seventeen-minute walk.
The concept of productivity in intervals isn’t new. In The Four-Hour Chef Tim Ferriss explains how we can improve recall by adding a 10-minute break in the middle of a long study session. (See page 83.)
John Trougakos, who is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & HR Management at the University of Toronto, published a study in 2013 about lunch break patterns. His research suggests that not taking a lunch break can increase fatigue and diminish productivity. (source)
Another study from Draugiem Group found that the employees with the highest productivity levels were the ones who focused for 52 minutes and then took a 17-minute break.
So if you’re fighting discouragement, take a walk and kill two birds with one stone. You can get some exercise, and you hit the refresh button. The more beautiful things you notice during your walk, the more your mood will improve.
Pro Tip – Leave your phone behind and allow yourself to be a disconnected human being and not a cyborg for once.
#4 Try my “Go There” exercise.
I started doing this exercise when I was learning how to deal with anxiety. The exercise will not take you long, and the ending will surprise you.
#5 Make a gratitude list.
Chances are, if you look hard enough, you can find some good in your life. Even on the worst days, you can, with enough effort, identify things for which to be grateful. Open your journal, and don’t close it again until you have at least twenty of them in your gratitude list.
- Bills paid
- Kind words someone said
- Clean drinking water
- Nourishing food
- Good books
- Kindness from a stranger
- Your dog or cat
- Your life
- Find two people to help.
In his book Flourish Martin E.P. Seligman relates this story:
“My friend Stephen Post, professor of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook, tells a story about his mother. When he was a young boy, and his mother saw that he was in a bad mood, she would say, ‘Stephen, you are looking piqued. Why don’t you go out and help someone?’ Empirically, Ma Post’s maxim has been put to rigorous test, and we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we tested.” (page 20 of my edition)
So, there you have it, folks. If you want to increase your well-being, then do a kindness. Do two.
If nothing immediately comes to mind, borrow some of my ideas:
- Send a friend a text message and name one thing you like about him/her.
- Compliment your server at a restaurant.
- Give one of your friends, co-workers, or colleagues a positive review on LinkedIn.
- Help a stranger by answering a question on Clarity.fm or Quora.
- Buy someone a gift.
- Bake cookies for a friend.
- Offer to babysit for free for a friend who has children.
- Think of someone who would benefit from your skills or expertise, and unsolicited, help that person. Rewrite his/her About page. Design a new logo for your college roommate’s side hustle.
- Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line.
- Treat a friend to dinner.
- Call your mom and say hi.
- Write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life.
- Drop a love bomb on someone on Facebook.
- Think of a single mother or single father you know. Offer to help.
- Take a dog for a walk.
#6 Have the hard conversation.
Do you need to make a phone call and share your feelings?
Sometimes the only shortcut is the long way around. No matter how much you might dread owning up to your mistake or initiating a conversation where you might lose a client, you will only feel better afterward.
Make the call. Feel better sooner.
#7 Cut out of work early.
Sometimes the only way to cheer yourself up is to stop working altogether and go do something else that makes you happy.
Long runs help me clear my head, and conversations with my wife Megan keep me grounded.
Here are some other things that help me:
- Delegate any needed response, such as an email reply, to someone else. For example, my CFO doesn’t get flustered easily. He agreed to field emails from certain individuals for me. Can someone who is not emotionally invested in the situation pinch-hit for you? This isn’t passivity. This is strategy.
- Take ten deep breaths.
- Working out.
- Pray or meditate.
- Open up my “Encouragement & Inspiration” folder.
- Hug and kiss my kids.
- Do something that doesn’t require any emotional investment. Mow the yard. Clean the kitchen.
- Focus on the truth. It’s not the end of the world. People have survived much worse. I have survived much worse.
- Remember that moods pass. You will feel better. And the perpetrator will soon move along and irritate someone else.
- Don’t nurse a victim complex.
- Don’t self-medicate.
- Write a letter to the person who upset you, and explain how his thoughts, words, actions affected you. Use “I think” and “I feel” statements. Do NOT send the letter.
- Watch five funny YouTube videos.
- Go see a movie in the middle of the day.
- Put together a happy playlist on Spotify.
- Watch “Happy” on Netflix: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613092/.
- Ask yourself this question, “What would I do differently right now if I knew that my current circumstances weren’t going to change for awhile?”
- Take a nap.
- Smile some more. Smiling can actually improve your mood.
Now you know how to turn your bad day into a good one.
Do you want to build a profitable business you love?
Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.
No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.