A bad day is as real as you make it. Really.
Think about it for a minute…when is the last time you had a “bad” day? When is the last time something happened not quite as you planned, or a couple things happened that threw you off kilter and you thought, “This is such a bad day!” or “I can’t wait until this day is over”? And how many of those so-called bad days then turned into a series of bad, bad days?
Last week I was feeling particularly run down. On top of my normal workload, I had the added self-induced pressure of preparing to teach a new class format and the task of packing the house for Patricia’s intenSati master class at LifeTime Fitness. That added pressure as well as the feelings of not being enough and not feeling like I was doing enough left me beyond exhausted. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m exhausted, it’s much easier to let my A-game slip – you know, the one where one little thing doesn’t change your trajectory for the day because you can roll with the punches. Well, Saturday my A-game slipped and I could blame it on being tired or stressed or whatever. I could – and did – blame it on the “bad” things that happened during the week. But the reality was I let myself have a bad day, and then another, so that by Saturday what I was left with was a series of bad, bad days.
Our bad days come in varying degrees. Everyone has those mornings, the ones where you misplace your keys on an already late morning or you spill your coffee on your favorite shirt…or worse, you realize you are out of coffee. All before 8:00am. Then there are the really bad days where the heaviness of a breakup, illness or loss weighs on you heavily. And it’s easy when any one of those things happen to go and label our day as “bad” and to stay on that trajectory for the rest of the day finding more evidence along the way that shows, “Yeah, this day really does suck.” In fact, not only do most people believe that there are such things as “good” and “bad” days, but most people believe those labels are infinite. In other words, once we decide our day is “bad,” that’s just how it’s got to be, save for some stroke of luck to prove us otherwise. Even more that this deciding fate is the ripple effect it has after that day is over. Once we have a bad day, it’s far easier to get caught in the downward spiral where one day leads to another and then another landing us in a bad, bad day.
I hit my bad, bad day on Saturday. I woke up feeling particularly cranky and tired, still riding the wave of my last bad day, but I managed to get myself to the gym to do a workout. Seven minutes into the class I started to feel tension in my upper back and as we progressed into the next exercise, my rhomboid spasmed and I was rendered breathless. All I could think was, “You’ve got to be f-ing kidding me!?” I had far too much work to do on Saturday – let alone workout – and I just didn’t have time for this “bad” thing to be added to the pile. I just simply couldn’t have another bad day. Several hours (and a chiropractor visit) later, I realized I didn’t have to have a bad day. I could have a good bad day.
We tend to think of our days as black and white or good and bad, when in reality we can have a bit of both, a good bad day. We can have a day where “bad” things happen but where those bad things don’t define our day. We can have a day where we’re not feeling our best and we don’t perform our best but where we keep our head in the game and give what we can anyway. Even when we’re up against resistance, we can still show up and get done what needs to be done.
This isn’t to say that bad things never happen because we’re inevitably going to experience things we don’t want to experience. We’re going to misplace our keys when we’re running late. The morning you most need coffee will likely be the morning you’re out of it. There are going to be days you aren’t performing at your best or where at every turn you’ll feel berated by your negative thoughts. The bottom line is there will always be that “stuff” and having a good bad day isn’t about negating the crap. Having a good bad day won’t take away the coffee stain or the thought that you aren’t enough. And that’s because having a good bad day isn’t about putting a Band-Aid on what’s going on. Rather it’s a matter of redirection. It’s asking:
- What’s the “bad” I’m experiencing?
- And, what am I going to do with it?
What’s the bad?
There was class I subbed that I thought was less than enough. There were the staggering signups for Patricia’s master class. And then of course, my pulled rhomboid. As I sat with my “bad” list, it called up a lot of strong feelings: resentment, overwhelm, anger, frustration and not feeling good enough. But more than just notice what was coming up, I allowed myself to feel those feelings and I was able to acknowledge that how I was feeling was just a sensation related to that particular event.
Asking yourself, “What’s the ‘bad’?” brings you into awareness where you can really address what’s going on for you. Even more, it allows you to feel your emotions so you can separate the emotion from the story. Feeling how you feel about the situation is critical for redirection. In fact, having a good bad day isn’t about changing how you feel about the situation. For instance, did you ever try to stop feeling jealous when you’re consumed with what someone else has? And the more you try to celebrate their success, the more jealousy and resentment you feel, right? That’s because forcing yourself to change how it is you’re feeling, without acknowledging what it is you’re feeling, only makes the feeling you’re trying to shift stronger. When I pulled my rhomboid, I could have tried to shift from anger and resentment to gratitude, telling myself that this was the break I needed to give my body. But I didn’t. I knew trying to gloss over how I felt and convince myself otherwise was like convincing myself to go have Whip Cream…it just ain’t happening.
What are you going to do with it?
What we do when we are presented with adversity, failure or negative thoughts is what makes all the difference in how we’ll experience our day. It’s not about having the negative thought, it’s about what you do with the thought that says you’re not enough. When that comes up you get a choice to let the thought sideline you or to work harder and prove it wrong.
It would have been far easier to lay in bed and resign the rest of my day (and week) – and part of me wanted to. But I knew from experience where that would take me. So with a little redirection, I was able to shift the momentum. Looking back, it’s not the good or best days I’m proud of – it’s the good bad days, the ones like Saturday where I made a seemingly small decision with a lot of impact.
Remember, even the best have bad days. You’re not always going to kill it at the gym or nail every presentation in the office, but you always have the opportunity to take charge of your day and how you view it. When you fall off, make a mistake or fail to achieve peak performance in the first half, know that you can always bring your A-game in the second…with a little redirection.