You know the feeling you get when you have one of those days? It’s that powerful sense that no matter what, nothing you do will go well. Simply getting the laundry done can throw you over the edge. If you’re like me, even when I accomplished great things and just one thing went wrong, I couldn’t let myself enjoy the glory.
Five Days Can Change Your Perspective
This perspective made my life tougher than it needed to be. Dissatisfaction and stress are not ingredients for happiness. Then about seven years ago, I heard a speaker, Roland Jarka, give a talk on reducing stress. He changed my life. Roland gave us great tips about mindfulness and breathing. But I didn’t hear anything that I thought I could use until the very end. That’s when Roland invited us to take a 5-day challenge he called “What Went Well.”
“At the end of each day,” he said, “write down three things that went well.” Roland warned us, “Don’t just look for the BIG successes. Simply write down three things that went well, even when most of the day is a tough one.” He added, “Just try it and see if it doesn’t reduce your stress and perhaps change your perspective in wonderful ways.”
A New Daily Practice
I remember thinking, “I can do that.” Then I jumped in with both feet and got amazing results. To hold myself accountable, I chose to post my three “What Went Well” items on my personal Facebook page each evening before bed. At the end of the five days, I could fall asleep without rehashing the day. Best of all, I found myself scanning throughout the day for what was going well. I felt so good. How could I make this last? That’s when I decided to post “What Went Well” every night for a year.
I started with Day 1 and kept going to Day 365. During that year, I face many challenging days when I had to search hard for those three things that went well. Examples of what went well on a tough day: the toilet flushed or I had cream for my coffee or I ate breakfast. There were some great days where I had to choose just three things from many that went well: A new client, a great session with a coaching client, a standing ovation after a speech I gave, our kids calling with good news, having the money to pay the tax bill, going out to dinner with my husband. I stuck to the discipline and posted three things that went well.
A More Positive Outlook
After that first full year, I realized my entire outlook on life was more positive. I found it easier and easier to find things that went well. In fact, I felt empowered, energized, and happier. I slept better. And if I woke up not wanting to get out of bed, I’d read what I posted the night before and be re-energized.
That’s when I knew, I’d make posting “What Went Well” a nightly practice for the rest of my life. If Facebook goes away, I’ll do it in a journal until the day I die. And I recommend this practice to my clients.
Speakers stress over each engagement usually before and after. They want their speech to be perfect and for everyone in the audience to love them and their message. Whether they use “What Went Well” in their daily life or not, I have them use it to debrief after every speech. It makes a huge difference when you can focus on what went well instead of the feedback from one dissatisfied audience member.
Every day for the last seven years right before bed, I scan the day for what went well and post three things. I still have big challenges. The audience doesn’t always laugh at my jokes. Business deals don’t turn out the way I’d hoped. My back goes out. Our son visits and spends more time with his friends than with us. My mother passes away. The challenges don’t stop. And neither does my “What Went Well” practice.
It Works Even On Your Worst Days
I’ll never forget the morning I received a call from my 85-year-old mother’s caregiver. “She’s having trouble breathing. Can you get here right away?”
I raced over and as I arrived, so did the hospice nurse. After examining my mother, she looked at me and my mom’s best friend, Perla, and said, “She’ll be gone within the hour.”
We hugged each other and gave my mom a sponge bath. Then we dressed her in her favorite outfit and did her hair and make-up. Perla and I held her hands until she took her last breath. She died surrounded by love.
A couple of hours later, the transport lady from the funeral home came for her. She opened the door to the room, looked inside and said, “She looks so beautiful!”
Perla and I did a high five! If my mother had still been alive, that is the one thing she would have wanted to hear someone say about her after she was dead. Even on such a sad day, I had many choices to share about “What Went Well.”
Refocus on the Positive
Being on the lookout for “What Went Well,” even when things go wrong, consistently helps me refocus my perspective on the positive and that gives me power and renewed energy in dealing with my challenges – big and small. This daily practice of writing down my three “What Went Well” items has opened my eyes to new possibilities, given me energy when I was down and allowed me to see countless new possibilities.
Here’s my invitation to you: Take the 5-Day “What Went Well” Challenge. See if it makes a difference for you. And then, get back to me. I’d love to hear about your results.
Susan Bender Phelps is The Speaker’s Coach. My superpower is working with speakers to develop a single high-stakes presentation or speech, help you overcome your nerves and fears, help you hone your public speaking skills, sell effectively from the platform, and style your stagecraft. For tips and inspiration around speaking, follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/susanbenderphelps/ or sign up for my monthly e-newsletter at http://susanbenderphelps.com/.