How to ‘do’ a good day

How do you ‘do’ a good day? It sounds like a ridiculous question at first. After all, the kind of day you have depends on the things that happen to you. Things that are out of our control, you may argue. Winning the lottery, getting a promotion, these are the kind of things that could happen to you, to turn your ordinary day into a good one. But how can you have a good day if no extraordinarily good things happen to you? And how do you have a good day when faced with the no-so-good day-to-day events and challenges. I believe it’s what you do, your attitude and your behaviour, that can determine whether you have a good day, or a bad one.

Consider this scenario: You’re lying in your bed and slowly you become aware that it is a little lighter than it usually is before you get up. Then the realisation dawns on you that the alarm has not gone off and that you are going to be late for work.

You jump out of bed, feeling stressed and annoyed and run around trying to get ready as quickly as possible. You don’t have time for breakfast or a shower. You shout goodbye to your kids and partner and rush out the door, without wishing them a good day. You get into the car and drive off, only to get stuck in horrendous traffic. You feel frustrated with other drivers who seem to have no urgency to get to where they are going. You’re worrying that you are going to be late for a very important meeting with your manager. You are thinking of all the consequences of being late and how you are going to explain it. You get even more annoyed thinking about your stupid alarm clock, and how inconsiderate it is to set such early morning meetings anyway, and how the driver in front of you seems to take pleasure in not making the lights and holding you up even more.

Eventually, feeling frazzled, you park your car and walk to your office in a rush, making minimal eye contact with your co-workers while you race to your desk. When anyone says ‘Good morning’ you mumble ‘morning’ as you rush past them. You know you are being kind of rude, but you don’t care; you are feeling so frustrated at how your day is going and don’t have the time or patience to be nice today.

Since you have missed your meeting and you can’t see your manager to explain why you are late, you go directly to your desk. Of course your emails are overflowing and the messages all seem to be marked urgent. You think to yourself that you are sick of this job and how bombarded you are with work. You check your voice messages and there are three urgent calls and a short message from your boss asking where you are. Your day ahead seems bleak and overwhelming.

As you start to deal with the emails a workmate walks in and says, ‘We’ve got a problem. I need you to look at this straight away.’ You look at them in a less than friendly way, give an exacerbated sigh and tell them it will have to wait. Your colleague shakes her head, walks away rolling her eyes and goes to the water cooler where she talks in a hushed tone to another colleague, no doubt about you. You feel more annoyed. Why can’t she just understand and not take it so personally. Isn’t it obvious to her that you are distracted and having a terrible day?

For the rest of the day all your colleagues approach you in a way that suggests you are having a bad day and you are in a bad mood, giving you minimal niceties, short answers and avoiding you whenever possible.

Your day started badly and it is just going from bad to worse. You can’t wait to go home and be done with today. It really is a bad day.

Why did you have such a terrible day? Was it because you got up too late, got stuck in traffic, missed your meeting, had to deal with annoying people or had so many urgent issues at work? The answer is.. it was really none of these things.

Breaking down a bad day

In fact, the things that happened to you were actually triggers. It was how you chose to reactto these triggers and your attitude to them happening, which in turn paved the way for your chosen behaviour, resulting in you having a ‘bad’ day.

In this instance, triggers were the lack of alarm, no breakfast, traffic jam, being late for a meeting and having a work colleague approach you to deal with an urgent problem. These triggers lead to thoughts, feelings or attitudes, such as ‘today’s going to be a bad day’, or ‘every one is harassing me’, or ‘I’m feeling stressed and tense’.

Your behaviour was how you reacted to each trigger; rushing out the door, being short with your family and then with your colleagues etc. It’s this behaviour and the ripple effect of others’ behaviour towards you, which served to reinforce that ‘today’s going to be a bad day.’ As a result of our attitudes and behaviours, the quality of the day becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So how do you ‘do’ a good day?

We can’t stop things that are outside of our control. Missing our alarm, getting stuck in traffic, missing meetings are all negative things that happen to us. What we can control is our attitudes and behaviours to these things.

We are all prone to victim behaviours. Victim attitudes and behaviours are centred around denying, blaming, justifying and quitting. When we consciously try to stop the victim mentality, we can start to apply mindfulness to have more considered, positive reactions to every-day challenges and frustrations. We can choose to create a good day for ourselves, again and again.

We should strive to take responsibility over our attitudes and actions, by accepting the triggers and the ‘bad stuff’ and reacting in a positive fashion.

Let’s try to apply this approach to our example above. This is how you could have reacted to the triggers to create a ‘good day’;

Consider the scenario: You’re lying in your bed and realise you have missed your alarm. Before you jump out of bed to frantically get ready, you grab your phone and text your manager to let him know you have slept in, you are sorry and you will most probably miss the meeting. You then get out of bed and get ready, quickly but not frantically.

While you are grabbing a banana for breakfast and wishing your family a great day, you get a text back from your manager saying thanks for letting me know and he will email you the outcomes of the meeting and not to worry, these things happen.

Feeling greatly relieved, you quickly kiss your loved ones goodbye and head off to work. Sure you are stuck in traffic, but you get to listen to a couple of good songs and even get to finish listening to a great podcast, about the power of positive thinking.

You park your car and walk quickly to your office, in a good mood, with your head up and making a mental note of what you need to do first. You know you will have a whole lot of work to get through today but you also know you will give it your best shot and that’s all you can do. A few people say ‘good morning’ and you wish them a good morning and a good day ahead. After a pleasant exchange of ‘good mornings’ with one particular colleague, they go on to mention they are grabbing a coffee and offer to get you one too. Great, you say, thanks so much. You smile to yourself, what a good start to the day.

You arrive at your desk and as expected, the meeting is over. Your email is overflowing and the messages all seem to be marked urgent. Just a regular day you think to yourself. You check your voice messages and there are a few urgent calls, you know you will get to them all throughout the course of the day. A workmate walks over and says, ‘We’ve got a problem. I need you to look at this straight away.’ You did want to get to your emails first, but it’s the nature of the work you are in that problems pop up unexpectedly and this is one of those times. You look away from your email, giving your full attention to her. Sure, you say. Let’s go sit over there and go through it. As you get up to walk to the meeting room, your other workmate hands you your coffee. For the rest of the day, you are busy and there’s lots of urgent things to attend to, but you get most of it done, and even manage to share a few laughs with your co-workers.

You go home and tell your loved ones you had a pretty good day.

It’s all about choosing your attitudes and behaviours

Accepting the things that happen to us and taking a considered and positive approach empowers you and can actually help to create more good days, than bad days. The great Italian preacher from the twelfth century, St. Frances of Assisi once said “Grant me the courage to change that which I can, the serenity to live with that I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

It’s a poignant and timeless quote that perfectly illustrates how you can choose to ‘do’ a good day, by knowing how to control the things that you can, and accept the things that you can’t.

If you would like to find out about how Rod can help you and your oganisation achieve more ‘good days’, please get in touch.  

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