All Of That For Nothing? 3 Tips for Forward Progress

Have you ever put sweat and tears -- countless hours -- into something only to find out it didn't work in the end, or it got lost, or deleted?  What a waste!  Right?  Wrong.

Today someone on my team, someone new to the profession, had a disappointing moment like this.  He had spent several hours of his own time on a project that was filled with purpose and meaning, only to find out the program he was using wouldn't be able to print it for the audience he intended it for.  They will never be able to see it.  There was, of course, a prolonged panic moment and the secretary called for tech support.  But in the end there was nothing that could be done to save the evidence of his work without having to start completely over.  With the deadline quickly approaching he had some decisions to make.  Should he start completely over cramming in that much time again?  Should he prioritize the project, lightening the workload?  Or should he completely let it go and not share anything of what he originally intended?  Being so distraught it was difficult to make any decisions today, but I know that whatever decision he ends up making it will be a good one, because none of those decisions are bad in this situation.

What I hope he understands from this experience is that the time he put into this project was not wasted.  Yes, no one will be able to see it.  Only he knows what was typed.  But through the process he had to extend his thoughts and dedicate his energy towards something that he wouldn't typically do.  Similar to the quote, "every person crosses your path for a reason," I also believe every moment has purpose and crosses our path for a reason.  This isn't an adage to learning from our failures (even though I strongly believe in that too).  This is all about seeking out the good in everything -- even the bad.  Through this process I know he had to slow down to reflect deeply on everything he typed up.  That alone makes all of the time he spent well worth it.  Not only will he approach things differently in his daily work because of these reflections, but he'll also be able to better express them when he is asked to share.  

I know, I know ... you are all thinking, "That's easy for you to say.  It didn't happen to you."  And you're right.  It didn't happen to me.  Today.  Come on now, it's happened to all of us.  Charles Swindoll was quoted as saying, "Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it."  So how do you take a situation like my colleague's and recognize the good, even when the situation is screaming, "This is bad!  This is really really bad!"?  I don't have all of the answers, but I do have 3 points that might help:

1.  Be mindful.  When you are mindful you are thinking only about the now.  This moment.  In this instance, focusing on the lost time, which happened in the past, might make him angry.  If he focuses on the future of no one ever seeing it he might feel bitterness.  But if he just focuses on the now -- has a great job, comes from a supportive family, is breathing and the ground is still under his feet, has a fantastic boss (Ha! I had to throw that in there!) -- then it is easier to control how you respond to difficult situations.

2.  Breathe.  Empty your mind for a split moment and just breathe.  Focus on each breath.  This doesn't have to be a long meditative process, just a few long breaths to help your brain focus on what is important.  Intentionally increasing your oxygen improves your brain performance.

3.  Be ambitious.  When we are ambitious we are always ready to move on to the next thing.  I'm a go-getter kind of gal.  There is so much in life to get accomplished!  I am always moving on to the next thing -- because there is always a next thing -- and I recommend others do the same.  When we are driven it doesn't give us time to sit around and be upset about what just happened.  

In my blog More Precious Than Gold I wrote about the importance of time.  Time is an emotionally charged entity because it is something you can never get back.  So truly, in this situation, I know much of the disappointment was stemmed from this.  However, through some mindfulness, breathing, and ambition I know he'll come back tomorrow feeling recharged to start a new day.

Let me know your thoughts on the 3 points mentioned and add some of your own tips in the comments below.