Plot Twists

Once upon a time, there was a poor young girl. 

She dreamed of being a member of the royal court one day.

It happened.

She lived happily ever after. 

The end.  

Not much interesting in that story, is there? 

There are NO plot twists—— surprises, bad news, amazing miracles, or any of the components that make a story great.

Turns out, stories are boring without plot twists. 

Life is kinda boring without plot twists, too.

But, those things that make life “interesting” can be hard—very hard. 

Cancer. 

Losing a job. 

World pandemics. 

Here are some ideas for moving through plot twists in your life.

  1. Acknowledge & Feel. If you’re starting sentences with “At least…” you might be trying to put a positive spin on things. You also might be avoiding your feelings. It’s okay to say, “this is hard.” 

Give yourself a few minutes to feel your feelings. When you let yourself process a feeling before you act, things generally turn out better.

My friend got a nasty e-mail from her boss. It came during a stressful and exhausting week in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis. She said, “I’m done. I’m quitting tomorrow.”
While she had every right to do that, I knew she liked her job. I encouraged her to pause. Then, I suggested she process her feelings by exercising (a magic weapon for metabolizing emotions). If she was still mad, I encouraged her to take a towel and beat it against the wall (another good trick for moving emotions.) 

After that, my friend felt calmer. She called her boss and told him the e-mail had been tough to receive and she wanted to have a direct conversation about it. 

He immediately apologized and owned the fact that he was mad about something else and took it out on her.

Her bosses’ failure to process his emotions before he acted from them nearly cost him a great team member.  

My friend’s willingness to process her emotions before she took action created a much better outcome, for all. 

I am not encouraging you to avoid, stuff down, or ignore your feelings. I am encouraging you to take responsibility for acknowledging and processing your emotions to help you better manage challenging situations.

  1. Accept what you can’t change. Arguing with reality is a losing proposition. 

As a little kid, if our day at the amusement park was canceled by thunderstorms, we would have had a tantrum—screaming at the adults in charge to “make it stop storming!!!”

Of course, no one could make that happen. The weather is out of our control.
Yet, many of us wail and gnash our teeth (the adult version of a tantrum?) about ALL KINDS of things that are out of our control every day. 

I often ask my clients to draw a large circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Then, I encourage them to put the things they can control in the circle. The things they can’t control go outside of the circle. 

Things outside of the circle can be acknowledged. But, it’s not where our attention or efforts go. When we accept the things we can’t change (hello Serenity Prayer) we have a lot more energy to focus on what really matters to us. 

  1. Reframe it.  Looking at the same problem from a different perspective is a really helpful skill to move through plot twists. 

Some ways I reframe challenging situations:

  • Imagine the most positive person you know is experiencing the same problem. How might they act in this situation?
  • Ask yourself, “How will my future self benefit from my actions now?”
  • Use the 10’s.  Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in 10 minutes? 10 days? 10 Months? 10 years?” That can help you gain perspective.
  • Choose thoughts that are helpful.  Low-quality thoughts don’t launch high-quality actions. 

Plot twists don’t have to be tragedies. 

But, they are difficult. 

Be kind to yourself as they play out in your life. 

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