When I first woke up this morning to the gun-shot sounds of the neighbouring farmer’s crow-scarers at 6:45am, my first instinct was to grumble (“It’s bloody Sunday… I was looking forward to a lie-in… That’s my day ruined…” and so on).
As tempting as it was to spend the morning grumpy and with the perfect excuse to have a bad start to the day and then lots of justification for work-avoidance, I had gone to bed priming myself to be productive and get things done in the morning, thereby earning my rest and relaxation in the afternoon. I had even prepared a check-list (for me, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing things ticked off on completion). So, when I noticed myself feeling grumpy, I asked myself, “How can I turn this unexpectedly early start to my advantage today?”
The answer was simple: a hard-core workout would wake me up, give me energy and give me a feeling of control and satisfaction that would be the best possible start to a productive morning.
One workout and breakfast later, I’m fired up and ready to go.
The point to this anecdote is this: when things don’t go according to plan, or something seemingly “unhelpful” happens, or we feel de-railed by something or someone, in asking ourselves, “How can I turn this to my advantage today?” we can end up with a much more positive result and stay on track with our goals and intentions. How we respond to what is going around us is within our control – what is going on around us is not.
In fact, sometimes, it’s the challenging or difficult situations that help us the most. This morning, not only did I have the time to work on my fitness and health, but I also got to have more time in the day to get more done, as well as relax - all without nursing any ill-will or negativity towards the farmer. And, as a bonus, I got good material for my blog at the same time (which, incidentally, was one of the items on my check-list).
“How can I/you/we turn this to my/your/our advantage today?” is a good question to use in your personal life to help turn things around when tricky situations arise (and, specifically, when you notice you are starting to get into a negative state in response to something), but it is also equally powerful at work when challenges arise. In the right contexts, it’s a useful question to use in one-to-one supervision or in meetings where people might be unhappy about something: a change, a person or a situation. A health warning here, though – it tends to work better when you have created a culture of positivity, reflection and coaching at work, and when people are used to challenging and different questions; or when you are developing such a culture and people are primed to expect different ways of questioning and reacting to things.
Today, I chose to take advantage of an un-asked for early alarm call to start the day with energy and purpose.
What can you turn to your advantage today?