Mauricio Estrella was having an all around crappy year in 2011. A creative director at EF Language Centers, he was going through a divorce and predictably bummed out.  As happens to most of us, little things really irked him because his mood was already so low.

What sort of little things?  Things like mandated monthly password updates.

An Annoyance Becomes a Mantra

For example, he explained recently in a truly inspiring Medium post, one day he walked in the office and his company's email server promptly demanded he come up with a brand new, never before used code including a capital letter, a symbol, a number, and at least eight characters. Confess it, you, me and 99 percent of people on the plant would have had the same initial reaction as Estrella--the urge to throw the damn computer out the window.

And that was exactly what Estrella initially felt, but then he chose to do something simple but extraordinary. He chose to take control of his life and reframe the situation entirely.

"I'm gonna use a password to change my life," he told himself.

"It was obvious that I couldn't focus on getting things done with my current lifestyle and mood. Of course, there were clear indicators of what I needed to do -or what I had to achieve- in order to regain control of my life, but we often don't pay attention to these clues. My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn't let myself be victim of my recent break up, and that I'm strong enough to do something about it," Estrella explains.

So that month his password became "Forgive@h3r." Every day, multiple times a day, he was forced to type out that reminder to let go of his anger and hurt towards his ex-wife, and the funny thing is, the reminder worked.

Small Change, Profound Effect

"That simple action changed the way I looked at my ex wife. That constant reminder that I should forgive her, led me to accept the way things happened at the end of my marriage, and embrace a new way of dealing with the depression that I was drowning into. In the following days, my mood improved dramatically," he reports.

So he tried the trick again, using the monthly prompts to gently nudge himself to make changes he knew he needed with passwords like:

  • Quit@smoking4ever
  • Save4trip@thailand
  • Sleep@before12
  • Ask@her4date

It's such a simple intervention, but most of these password mantras actually worked according to Estrella (you can read his complete post to find out exactly which).

What does that mean for you? The simplest takeaway is just to steal his idea--could your password be put to work to make you happier? But perhaps the deeper lesson here is that you do have a choice--life will sometimes deal you a truly dreadful hand, but you do not have to accept your resulting misery without a fight. With a little ingenuity and determination to be happier, it's possible to find a way back towards happiness.

So what's your password going to be next month?