First 30 Days Blog

13 jun

What Went Right?

JayForteI hate to wait in line; I will avoid crowds like the plague. So when I have to do an errand at a big home center, I always choose an odd hour. I love that they are open at 6 am. And I don’t mind being the first one there if it means getting my errand done in hurry and without crowds.

So, let me set the stage – a Saturday morning, up early at one of the large home centers in South Florida. I needed three cabinets to mount on the wall of the garage to get things off the floor and out of sight. This has been on my to-do list for nearly a year. Today was the day to get it off the list.

But before I take you quickly through the event, I want to draw your attention to something. We do so many things during the day that work out well – the things that go great. But I find in looking at my own attitude and talking with others, we seem instead to notice and dwell on the things that did not go right, even if there were many things that did go right.

So here is my event. Let’s keep track of the things that went well (Good Thing – I’ll use “GT”) and things that did not (Bad Thing – I’ll use “BT”).

The normally busy highway had few cars and it was an easy ride (GT).

The store was open early and the parking lot had available parking near the door (GT).

The product I needed was not well labeled so it took 10 minutes of wandering to find what I was looking for (BT).

I locate the cabinets I need and the price is reasonable (GT).

There aren’t any of what I need on the shelf; plenty of other sizes but not the ones I need. (BT).

The staff member finds what I need on a higher shelf and prepare to use a forklift to retrieve them. (GT).

I find another brand of cabinet (already preassembled – I can save time and just hang them when I get home, not need to assemble them too) and get help loading on my cart (GT).

I go to the checkout and am the only one in line (GT).

I bring the preassembled cabinets to the car – they don’t fit in any configuration I try (BT).

Okay, stop for a minute. Count the GT’s, and BT’s. Six good to three bad. And at this moment, my only thought is how I hate this event. But actually, things have been great. Why do a few bad things overtake so many good things? Hold that thought. Back to shopping.

I reload the cabinets onto the cart and am now furious about having to return the pre-made cabinets and buy the ones that will need assembly. I now have to do this errand again, as if the first time (BT).

There are no other customers at the return register and they easily process my return, and laugh with me about how some things just don’t work out right (GT).

I find the cabinets I need, get help and they pull three down for me with the forklift truck in a matter of moments (GT).

I go back the check out register – only one customer in front of me in line with a small order. When it is my turn, the woman who initially processed my order recognizes me and looks at me with a face asking for an explanation. We both laugh at the event (GT).

These boxes fit beautifully in the car (GT).

I get them home to find rough packaging damaged one of the cabinets (BT).

I know how to fix what happened to the damaged cabinet and do not need to bring it back to the store (GT).

I follow simple directions and build all three cabinets quickly and easily. (GT).

In another 2 hours, three cabinets are up on the walls in the garage and I get to see the garage floor for the first time in a long time. (GT).

Okay, I know this was a mundane event but realize we are constantly assessing our situations and determining whether they are good or bad. The bad events trigger our defense mechanisms, so the more we focus on what doesn’t go right, the more we activate our fight or flight responses.

Fight or flight is designed to make us efficient at protecting ourselves by amplifying our circulatory system, enhancing our senses and being prepared to defend or run. When our systems shift into fight or flight mode, the rest of our normal systems (those that keep us in balance – homeostasis) are interrupted. And the more we stress and focus on the bad things (BT), the more we constantly activate this fight or flight internal response and the more we suppress our normal health functions and immune system – we get sick. It is actually far more complicated than that but the thing to remember is that when we focus on what went right, we activate a better health response than when we focus on what went wrong. And this response is our choice.

Even though I know this, when a neighbor saw me putting the cabinets up, I went right to the part of the story where the cabinets didn’t fit and basically I had to do the purchase event twice. Then I stopped myself and summarized the great things that happened and that the project was done sooner than I expected.

How do you turn the negative into positive?

  1. Focus on what went right instead of what went wrong. If you are starting to lose your cool, stop! Then list 5 things that have gone well in the last 5 minutes, 30 minutes or hour. Learn to focus on the successes.
  2. End your day with a “what was great today” list. Celebrate great things. Celebrate great responses. This allows you to approach your rest period in a grateful and generous way.
  3. Improve your language of appreciation. Speak kindly to yourself and to others. Notice great things others do and comment on them. Notice the impact on yourself and others when your language moves from negative to positive.

Approach every event with a challenge to stay calm, maintain your cool and find the good things. There are always great events – we just have to focus on what went right instead of what did not. It is our choice to be upbeat and positive. And if you look at the science connecting health and emotions, you will see that one of the greatest things we can do to stay healthy is focus on what went right.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, and the on-line resources, Stand Out and Get Hired, and The Hunt for Opportunities Success Manual. He has just completed his new book (due out in August 2010), Happiness Matters; Know Yourself, Find Your Fit and Transform Your World; chapter downloads will soon be available on his website. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to live fired up! More information at

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Posted by Jay Forte on June 13th, 2010 in Career, Family, Health, New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Spirituality, Teens | 0 comments

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