How to Respond to Negative Events in Your Life

When I asked a client to email me a list of good things that happened on Friday, I found it interesting that he said he would, but first informed me of something bad that had happened. In a text message, he said that we lost a $2,500 sale due to a dispatcher’s error. This may in fact be a true statement and, if so, is certainly something that we did not want.

The point of the exercise was to get my client to focus on the good. It was interesting to me to see that his thought process would not let him go there. It was reminiscent of the “glass half full or half empty” analogy.

When we think about life, we filter things in different ways and then respond. The Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) approach calls this process “filtering of behavioral frames.” One behavioral frame of NLP is orientation toward outcome—rather than problem.

When a problem occurs, we have a few choices regarding how to respond. We can dwell on the problem. We can fret or become angry, which leads to more bad things. This behavioral orientation toward focusing on the problem sometimes is called the “blame game.” I encourage you not to focus on the problem.

I found it significant that when I asked my client to focus on the good that happened that day, he first had to dwell on the bad even to the point of sending me a text about it. This is his behavioral frame. He gives attention to the problem and blames others. He focuses first on the bad and dwells on it. This affects his emotions in a negative way and his negativity affects the team.

If you want less bad in your life, you must focus your attention on the good and dwell on those things—even writing them down. If you don’t have enough money, be thankful for the money that you do have. That’s why gratitude is so important. It helps you focus your attention on the good. If you dwell on the bad, you will only get more of it. What you focus your attention on becomes bigger.

So how do you respond to the bad? Do you ignore it? No, absolutely not. However, you can change your orientation toward outcome.

Take in the bad thing as simply feedback of an outcome that you did not want. Focus on what you do want. Focus on the solution that will change this unwanted result. Take action and implement the idea.

You must change how you think about negative things. When a bad thing happens to, you ask yourself, “What can I do about this? What can I do to solve this problem?” Do not complain, grumble, fret or become angry. It is not important what is happening to you. What is important is what are you going to do about it.

If, in fact, the dispatcher lost a $2,500 sale, my client should acknowledge that it happened with the dispatcher and together they should collaborate about ways to avoid this outcome in the future. Those solutions that they come up with should be implemented, and then they should measure results to see how they are doing.

What’s the bottom line? Think about failure as feedback. It resulted from an action that produced something you did not want. So, go change something and adjust your actions. That is the essence of learning.

About the author, Roger Daviston

Roger Daviston is a personal growth consultant who gets measurable results. He facilitates and encourages individuals to change behavior and make different choices to achieve better outcomes.

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