Making suckiness good: Lab Rats Week 1

  • Someday Lesson: Life sucks when it’s full of distractions.

Sometimes the suckiness of life comes from illness or bad things happening to you or your loved ones, but often it comes from when we find ourselves distracted from what we really want.

And when we complain, we are met with people ready to help, to make us feel better, or to at least get us to shut up already. They mean well, but at times they are completely out to lunch. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge how much we hate what’s not going right in our life.

We need a good wallow.

It’s okay to be negative. It’s all right to bitch and moan and whine and cry and have a good old temper tantrum on the floor. It’s cathartic. It releases a whole bunch of pent up emotions. And it clears the way to action.

To kick off the series, therefore, I got the Lab Rats to kvetch for a while – thirty minutes to be exact. And then turn it around and take one item from the list and make it a positive thing.

And wow, did they do a good job of it!

But before we get to that, let’s talk a bit more about why complaining produces good results. After all, it’s common knowledge that a positive attitude offers the best chance to experience happy. If we focus on negativity then we feel negative and we attract negative consequences, no?

Not necessarily. Constant complaining blocks happiness, but a constant positive attitude does as well. Think about it. If you always force a smile on your face, what happens to the little things that bother you? They fester behind the smile.

By letting the complaints come out to play, we take a look at them and see that many of them actually don’t have the strength to face the light of day. They shrivel up and become meaningless. When we hold them in, they grow and become huge wet dripping fungi that threaten to eat their way out from the inside.

Now that you have that lovely image stuck in your head, let’s take a look at what each Lab Rat came up with. They all picked something that kept distracting them from being in the moment and enjoying what they had. By turning off the distraction, they’ve been able to focus on moving beyond suckiness into strength and happiness.

  • The long distance of Jim’s relationship distracted him from his personal journey, and couldn’t survive the need to be more personally focused.
  • Cat’s work distractions meant she couldn’t complete her projects within a typical day causing stress and irritation.
  • Brett’s tendency to stay up late distracted by TV and the Internet caused problems in the morning and distanced him from his family.
  • The choices of her sister distracted Barb from focusing on where her energy needed to be – on her parents.

Jim, who wants to live and not just exist, got a shocking reminder this week that living isn’t just about the good stuff. The long distance of Jim and Heidi’s relationship distracted them from the personal journeys that they each must take, and the relationship had to give way to those higher personal needs.

He could have stopped there and stayed in an “I’m all alone” rut removing himself from life, but since that would take him in the wrong direction, he turned the suckiness around and said “I now have more time to focus on my growth, and my kids.” Instead of deciding that he wasn’t worthy (which many of us do when relationships end), he’s decided to look for ways to find support and value from within himself.

As someone who has struggled with the internal/external validation thing most of my life, I understand Jim’s situation and his reaction to a horrible situation shows just how far along his Someday Journey he has actually come. Well done!

Cat has some of the same challenges, but instead of self-worth she’s looking for self-knowledge, specifically what she wants to do with her life. All she really knows is that she doesn’t really like her job and so gets super irritated at taking work home with her.

She knows why she does it – because she gets distracted at work and doesn’t concentrate on tasks in large blocks. This happens to many people, especially in offices with the telephone, email, the Internet, instant messaging services and of course people coming to talk to you.

Cat’s way of turning the suckiness around means inserting a block of uninterrupted time into her day. She’ll close the door, unplug the Internet, and mute the phone for thirty minutes. Timeblocking is a powerful tool. In a world of distractions and an emphasis on multitasking setting it has become important to section out our days into blocks of uninterrupted time. Without it, nothing will get done when we want to do it, and like Cat, we’ll end up taking our work home with us (or for those who already work from home, extend an already long day).

Brett faces distractions too. Remember how Brett said he wants to get off the couch and get more involved with his family? In his list of complaints, he noticed one – not being able to get himself out of bed in the morning – that he could change with little effort and yet produce a potentially huge gain.

Stopping the suckiness of grumpy, groggy mornings turned out to be as simple as going to bed earlier. He realized that he wasn’t actually doing anything at night, just letting himself get distracted by TV and by the Internet without anything to show for it.

And the result? He’s taken the dog for walks, heard his daughter play clarinet and even got to some jobs around the house on the weekend before the day got too hot to move.

Barb’s distractions are huge at the moment too. Her father has been quite unwell and with a sister living in another state Barb’s the caretaker. Suckiness here? Resentment. Definitely. Her decision? Focus on her parents and let the sister deal with the consequences of living in another state. Barb realizes that her parents won’t be around for a long time, so it’s better to focus on the pleasure she gets being with them rather than resenting her sister who has chosen not to be there.

Your turn – what distractions are making your life sucky and what will you do to reframe the suckiness and make it good?

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7 thoughts on “Making suckiness good: Lab Rats Week 1

  1. Cat says:

    After doing this exercise, I experienced some interesting results just a couple days later. I felt better–a lot better. I woke up Wednesday morning and just felt intensely happy. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way. To be honest, I can’t give Alex’s exercise 100% of the credit, since a variety of things came nicely together for me on Tuesday. However, I do think it did play a major role in shifting my attitude from negative to positive.

    The exercise itself provided me with an opportunity to look at what was bothering me. A lot of the things on my list were really silly and juvenile and shouldn’t have had the power to make me really upset. Yet, for some reason they did. By putting it all down in writing, I felt like I had more control over these items and that I had the power to choose whether or not they would upset me.

    As far as time blocking, it’s something that I’m still struggling with. It’s much harder than I thought it would be to sit down and say, “I’m going to do THIS right now and not think about anything else.” Thankfully, I haven’t been taking work home with me, so it really hasn’t been a problem.

  2. I’m a fan of positive thinking but I agree that sometimes we need to sit down and let all our complaints breathe. Positivity is no good if it’s false or forced, and the only way we can eliminate the things that are holding us back from happiness is to identify and then address them. This is good stuff.

    Melissa Donovan´s last blog post..Plotting Fiction: The Elements of Plot

  3. Alex Fayle says:

    @Cat
    Yes, often when we bring our fears and negativity out into the light of day they seem small and petty. That’s why I’m a fan of this sort of thing because when we have to justify why we think our life sucks (by that I mean state it out loud), we gain some perspective on what really matters. Great realization!

    @Melissa
    Thanks! False or forced positivity to me is just another way to be negative because we know it’s forced and aren’t doing anything about what we feel behind the false smile.

  4. It’s amazing how our complaints sound when we hear them out loud. When I leave them in my head, they get tossed around and around. Say them out loud and I can see how many of them serve no purpose. For the ones that are issues and need to be dealt with, an exercise like the one you’re describing helps me change the situation around. Smart post!

  5. Alex Fayle says:

    @Laurie
    That’s why I don’t subscribe to the “never complain” camp – as interesting as that sounds, I need to complain every once in a while to clear my head of negativity. 😉

  6. […] projects, specifically things around the house. We already know that Brett’s seen the effects of small changes, so let’s take a look at what big steps he sees to getting his house in […]

  7. […] Lesson 1: Wallowing Cat: I definitely feel like I’ve had a shift in attitude. A lot of the stuff on the list still annoy me, but not to the extent that they used to. I remember after writing this list, I felt a huge weight off of my shoulders. I think just KNOWING what was bothering me was a huge thing, and by knowing what it was that was bothering me I could then take steps to change it. I’m studying for both Japanese AND the GRE. I went through a spurt where I was writing almost every day, if not at least two to three times a week. I still hate asking for help, but I’ve sort of learned how to do it a bit more gracefully. […]

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