There are days when we stumble, and fall short of our expectations. And then there are days when we fall flat on our face, and don’t seem to achieve anything at all. I had one of those yesterday. For those of you that can relate to this, I have 5 strategies you can use to keep yourself working towards your goals even when you have a bad day. But first, I’d like to tell you about my day– I had a fairly ambitious goal, which was to launch this website on a new server. I had previously hosted this website on Blogger, but I wanted to migrate the website over to WordPress before I participated in a big promotion of this site that begins tomorrow. But as with most tech-related goals, I immediately hit a snag: the design I wanted to apply to this website was incompatible with the new server.
And of course, it took about 7 hours of my time to discover that there was no solution to the design incompatibility, and that time was not spent sipping martinis while relaxing next to the fireplace- it was spent on the phone with hosting company representatives giving my fruitless suggestions on how to (not) fix the issue, and on the computer Googling various code fixes I was supposed to try despite my not knowing how to write one iota of code (come to think of it, a martini could have been very helpful here, as with my alcohol tolerance level I would have ended up face down at my desk, happily oblivious to this boggy mess).
So, after the 7 hours of getting nowhere with my hoped-for web design I took a deep breath, calmed myself, and decided that I could participate in tomorrow’s promotions without the fancy design, and that it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Feeling smug for not letting my drive for perfection ruin the launch of my new website, I confidently called my hosting company to request that they launch my website on the new server. And you should have seen how my self-important smile froze on my face as the representative cheerfully replied, “That will be no problem. Your request will be processed next week.”
“Thank you,” I replied weakly. I hung up the phone, closed my eyes, and hung my head, realizing that “next week” meant that the launch would not be occurring before the first (and biggest) promotion of my site. Instead of readers visiting (and hopefully bookmarking) my new website address (the one you’re visiting right now) they would be visiting my old Blogger website address that would soon be defunct. I felt discouraged and frustrated. And discouragement and frustration are all that is needed for me to start feeling defeated.
But at this point it was time to make dinner, so I did my best to ignore the voices in my head telling me that I would be a failure as a writer and instead focus on my latest foul-up of the day, which was that I had forgotten to defrost the ingredients for tonight’s dinner. I silently thanked the dinner gods that there was one more frozen pizza left in the freezer, so I threw that in the oven while my husband and five-year-old daughter engaged in a lively Judo wrestling match on the living room floor. [July 2014 update: we no longer eat gluten or dairy, so I would have really been in a pickle if this had happened now that we're on our Paleo diet- no frozen pizzas to the rescue!]
Feeling relieved that I pulled together a replacement dinner, I pulled the pizza out of the oven with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm. The doomed pie flipped off my spatula and fell upside-down onto the bottom of the oven. That’s right, not only was the pizza upside down, but it was getting fried with alarming speed on the oven’s heating elements. Smoke pouring out of the oven, I awkwardly hunched over with two spatulas and desperately scraped and scooped the pile of cheese, sauce, and sausage off the oven’s floor before it became permanently cemented to the oven. I felt tempted to burst into tears, or explode into a frenzy of frustration, but somehow I convinced myself not to traumatize my family with an adult-sized temper tantrum and instead turn to my list. Here’s my advice to myself, which always seems to calm me down and keep me on track, and maybe it will do the same for you when you have a bad day:
- Take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. If nothing else, you will at least be oxygenated when you start yelling. But you might be surprised at how a measured inhale and exhale will calm you down. (Incidentally, I had to walk away from the oven before inhaling, or I would have asphyxiated myself with smoke.)
- Accept a less than perfect result. Often, we become frustrated that we are not living up to an ideal that we’ve created for ourselves. Remind yourself that it is ok to be mediocre once in awhile, especially if it saves your sanity.
- Find gratitude. Take a moment to observe the smallness of your problems in comparison to what they could be- my website snafu was but a speck of dust compared to the challenges that others are facing right now- home foreclosures, medical diagnoses, violence. If you’re finding it too hard to be grateful for things in your own life, try to appreciate the wonderful things in the bigger world- the freshness of a breeze, the clarity of a bird’s song, the gift of being alive. It’s hard to be angry and grateful at the same time, and I guess I’d rather be grateful.
- Work around negative thoughts in your head. It’s normal (and healthy!) to self-criticize, but if we’re not careful our inner voices can discourage us by relentlessly pointing out our failures and exaggerating the negative of our situations. When I couldn’t solve my website design issue, I found myself thinking, “You’re no good at this. Not only are you clueless about web design, you are probably a horrible writer, too. You should just give up, because your work will amount to nothing.” To work around those thoughts, I had to remind myself that just because I’m bad at something now doesn’t mean I can’t get better at it. Some of the negative thoughts lingered nonetheless, at which point I had to simply say to myself, “You’re right. I am an idiot who doesn’t know what she’s doing in and will ultimately fail at this endeavor. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go ahead and make a fool of myself by proceeding with this project.”
- Just keep going. A bad day is discouraging, and can make us feel like giving up on our project or goal. But if you just keep working on your project despite these feelings, you will find that eventually the negativity will wear off, and not only will you feel re-energized, you will be proud that you actually made progress on your project despite being discouraged.
So, sweating in front of the hot oven, upside-down pizza before me, hungry family looking at me with wide eyes, I mentally consulted this list. And I bet you know what I did next, right? That’s right- I put the empty pizza crust back on the pan, piled everything back onto the crust and served it to my family without batting an eye.
And as to the website- well, hopefully you’ll come visit me at its new location. UPDATE April 2012: The new website is now up and working- you are reading this post on the newly redesigned website! All’s well that ends well. Thanks for listening to my rant.
How do you pick yourself up after a bad day?