This Small Shift in Your Thinking Makes All the Difference

Our perspective influences our reactions, and it can lead us to respond poorly. When we react negatively to a person or a situation, it’s often because our perspective was skewed by what we believed to be true at the moment. As our frustration increases, we react emotionally, turning away from the person or experience that we think is at the root of the problem. And then, we start justifying our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Here’s what it sounds like when someone has turned away:

  • “My boss is difficult, and I’m tired of not being recognized for my effort. It makes me feel frustrated and unmotivated to perform.”
  • “This commute stinks. I hate that I have to get up and leave my house every day to go to work. It ruins my day. Great job. Bad commute.”
  • “Why am I paired up with Marie on this project? I’m tired of waiting for her to finish her work so I can pull it all together. Granted, she’s thorough. But her slow speed grates on me.”

Notice that the speaker in each of these examples was turned off. They were behaving in a manner that I refer to as being “turned away” from the other person or situation. When we turn away, we give ourselves permission not to care and focus on complaining instead of finding a solution. 

We all turn away to some extent when we are frustrated, but the problem with focusing only on the negatives, the complaints, is that we then carry that weighted, unhelpful energy around. It can ruin our day, and it influences how we experience our relationships and circumstances. It colors our viewpoints and affects our interactions and performance. The longer we stay in that state, the more we focus on ourselves and our injuries, and we become less interested in connecting with others. We are more invested in our feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, or exhaustion, and because of this, we stay disconnected. Over time, relationships can get splintered, and resentment builds

Surprisingly, the resolution for regaining a more positive outlook can be quick and straightforward, even for the most contentious relationships. All it requires is a slight shift in your thinking — something that’s free and within your control.

Change your focus, change your perspective

The key to getting out of this downward spiral is shifting your thinking and making a conscious decision to turn towards the person or situation you find frustrating. Shifting your thinking is Key Element #2 of The Relationship Protocol communication model, and it simply requires you to focus on something bigger than yourself as motivation to change your perspective.  

For example, suppose your job is important to you. In that case, it might provide you with the motivation you need to shift your thinking. You might initially feel frustrated and unmotivated at work because your boss is difficult and doesn’t recognize your contributions. You can then shift your thinking and consciously choose to build a relationship with him and perform to the best of your ability. This same shift in thinking can help you accept a crummy commute, so it doesn’t ruin your day or make an effort to get along with your slow-poke co-worker.

When we look to something bigger than ourselves as motivation to change our perspective and shift our thinking, it makes it easier for us to turn towards the person or situation we once found so frustrating. It’s always helpful to step back, look at the bigger picture, and remember what is most important.

What matters most to you at work? Once you’ve identified your priorities, use that knowledge as positive motivation to change your perspective and turn towards the person or situation that is frustrating you. Doing so will change your outlook, your energy, make the situation lighter, perhaps better, and at the very least,  tolerable. It’s worth the shift!

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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