We all have our bad days. The coffee spills, the dog ate the back off your favourite shoes, there were only bran muffins left in the basket by the time you got to work, and no one knows where the one file/form/phone number you needed to even start your work day is, when it was in the center of your desk before you left last night. You want to scream. You want to find that intern and make them cry.

But if you really want to be the Chuck Norris of the Office (yes I just watched an episode of Walker Texas Ranger and couldn’t resist), then you know what you have to do instead; anything but give in to those temptations. Only the truly mentally tough know how to make bad days run the other way.

1.Never Make it Personal

Even though you may perceive that the world is out to get you, and only you, this is in fact a psychological phenomenon called ‘cognitive distortion’. Though it is natural to filter our experiences through our personal lense, or the perspective of ‘self’, in reality the coffee spilling on your shirt had more to do with physics and gravity than it did with you as a person. Those who are mentally tough are able to separate themselves from events, identifying instead that the dog chewing on the shoes has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with the dog needing a new chew toy. Most of the time in life things that happen to you aren’t personal.

2. Identify the Motivation

Before you lose your temper, or your focus, you need to look at the situation that is frustrating and ask yourself why it is happening. Take for instance, there are only bran muffins left in the basket. Why is that? Since we’ve followed tip one and eliminated the personal (Bob from the art department didn’t eat all the blueberry ones just to upset you) we can look at the problem objectively. What is everyone’s motivation for eating muffins? Well, they’re hungry, and they have flavor preferences. If bran are left, no one likes to eat them or we can argue a much smaller number of people do. Which means the other flavors in the basket are more pleasing to more people. Solution? Ask the basket provider to eliminate bran if possible and include more apple cinnamon. Or, create and enforce a one person, one muffin rule. Once you can identify other motivations for people’s actions, you’re a lot more likely to keep a cool and an open mind.

3. Really, Deeply, Truly, Let It Go

The masters of mental toughness are the ones who are able to truly release their focus on the mundane, unimportant, and irrelevant. Though the loss of the file/form/phone number might be deeply irritating, even upsetting or deeply important, the mental masters are able to let go of the situation and either focus on solutions, or engage another problem until such time as the first can be solved. Dwelling on, obsessing over or constantly worrying about a problem actually makes us less capable of resolving the issue. This is seen often in sports; athletes who are unable to let go of a bad play or a bad call play statistically worse for the rest of the game than those who are able to acknowledge the moment for what it is (a moment) and return to the game as though nothing had occurred.

So the next time your day starts badly, or you just need to roundhouse kick your brain into overdrive at work, apply these three habits to your daily routine. And if you can rock cowboy boots and a Stetson while you’re at it, it couldn’t hurt.

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Published on: Sep 2, 2015
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