Three months ago my boss came to me and told me that I had to work out of town for a month. I would only be about an hour away, so I could commute if I wanted to.
This was a minor annoyance, but no big deal. I could still sleep in my own bed and go on with my normal routine without too much interruption.
That changed two weeks ago. Due to budget cuts, I wouldn’t be working an hour away. Instead, I would have to drive two hours away to Jacksonville and work there for a month. No way was I commuting now.
When I found out I had to spend a month away from home, I was heated. I was the only person from my office who had to travel away from home this year. And this would be my second time doing it.
Last time I also traveled to Jacksonville, and I was miserable. I was upset I had to spend time away from home. And that was only for two weeks. This time it would be for the entire month.
What’s wrong with me?
I had an observation three and a half weeks ago: the smallest things were setting me off.
I was complaining more. I was playing the victim. I believed everything was outside my locus of control.
So you can imagine how I felt when I was told I needed to go away for a month. I was angry. “Why the f*** do I have to keep doing this? It’s not fair.”
A few days after finding out I would be in Jacksonville I was listening to a Tony Robbins recording.
He talked about how we can’t control everything around us. But what we can control is our perception of the world. In order to change your perceptions, you must change the questions you ask yourself.
When you’re upset or angry or annoyed, don’t list the reasons why a situation sucks. Shift the focus. Ask better questions.
Ask yourself: “what’s good about this?”
The light bulb moment
A couple days later, I was taking my mid-morning walk at work still fuming when the light bulb went off. Right then I shifted the focus. I asked myself, “What’s good about this?”
When I got back to my desk I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote in big, bold letters at the top of the paper “What’s good about having to work in Jacksonville for a month?”
And I began to list things out.
- I’ll meet new people.
- I can go to new restaurants.
- I can check out their breweries.
- It won’t get dark until late, so I can explore after work.
- I’ll be downtown, and everything is within walking distance.
- I’ll challenge myself with new tasks at work.
- I’ll be able to go home on the weekends.
- All of my meals are paid for.
- I’ll break my routine.
All of the sudden, I started to feel better. Instead of being annoyed, I started looking forward to it.
In retrospect, I don’t even know why I was annoyed.
The only thing I really had to be angry about was being outside the comfort of my hometown. Other than that, going to Jacksonville looked like more good than bad.
How is it going so far?
Today is my second day in Jacksonville and I’m enjoying it much more this time around.
I’ve been able to explore more. I’ve gone to new places to eat. I’ve tried new beers.
I’m convinced I would not enjoy myself if I continued with the mindset of being annoyed.
But because I searched for reasons why this would be a good trip, it has thus far turned out to be good.
I reframed the situation by asking “what’s good about this?”
I forced myself to come up with answers to a question I didn’t even previously consider.
This serves as a reminder for myself: you are only as good as the quality of questions you ask yourself.
You can use this same technique in a number of situations.
For example, if you’re stuck in traffic tomorrow, ask yourself, “what’s good about this?”
Come up with five reasons why being stuck in traffic is actually a good thing. I tried this the other day and there was a huge difference in how I felt by end of my evening commute.
Next time you’re in a situation that makes you angry, annoyed, or upset, ask yourself, “what’s good about this?”
It may be hard to come up with answers initially. You will want to resist answering. Overcome this resistance, answer the question as best as you can, and see how you feel.
Remember, you’re only as good as the quality of questions that you ask yourself.