Can you find something good in every scenario?
Maybe you can and maybe you can’t, but I think the exercise is worthwhile no matter what. When it’s big picture stuff, it’s often easier – big changes are naturally bundles of many smaller discrete experiences, and some of those will be positive if you look. So that’s actually easy – it’s easier to find the one good thing about getting fired (more time to spend with your kids!), even if the emotional impact is harder to deal with at first.
But how about banging your toe against the coffee table? Where’s the good in that, huh?
Well, sometimes you have to go the opposite direction – instead of finding the one tiny good thing in a big bundle of bad ones, in this case you’re looking at one tiny bad thing. So find the big bundle of good it belongs in! Sure, you banged your toe – that sucks, and you genuinely have my sympathy if that just happened to you (maybe you shouldn’t walk while reading blogs, silly). But hey – you have a coffee table! And at least one foot! And probably a house where you keep that coffee table, or at least an apartment or something. And so on.
So there are two categories of “bad events” – ones that are big enough that surely they contain some good, and ones that are small enough that they must be outweighed by the good that surrounds them.
The reason it’s worthwhile to look at things that way isn’t because it has an immediate impact. Your toe is going to hurt the same regardless of whether you say, “Ow! I’m sure glad I have a coffee table!” The reason is because of the pervasive, long-term impact of positive creativity.
Sometimes you’ll have to work hard to think of One Good Thing ™. Some days can be really difficult to get through. Often, however, those days are difficult to get through because the negative things have grabbed your attention and don’t want to let go. Finding the One Good Thing isn’t about dramatic immediate change; it’s about shaking off the grip of those bad things, giving your emotions something else to focus on, so that you can push through to the next day. And that next day is better. And the next one is better still.
I’ve been sick the past couple of days. Being sick is no fun for anyone, but I’ll admit being physically sick often puts me in a bad place mentally as well. It hurts my ability to achieve my daily goals, which in turn makes me feel like a slug, and I’m a little hard on myself for it.
But there’s always something good. A lesson I can learn, like this one, and maybe share with others. A better day after the bad one.