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You’ve likely heard the Robert Burns’ quote about “best-laid plans.” If you haven’t, I will try to convey the spirit behind the words. Perhaps you make lists, keep your calendar up-to-date, and start each day with specific goals in mind. Maybe you pack a lunch, get in a morning workout, and get everything into the car that you need until you return home that night. It’s possible you do none of these things, but you consciously think through the path you’d like your day to take. These are great habits. Sometimes our days flow according to plan. Smile as you think about those happy days, because the flipside lies at the heart of that quote I mentioned.

Instead, imagine this day. You wake to a houseful of arguing kids, lost shoes, and misplaced backpacks. Finally, you rush them out the door but then hit every red light on the way to work. You’ve got your hands full as you approach the office, and the person in front of you lets the door close. Juggling your belongings, your coffee spills on your favorite blouse. Moments later, as you sit down to present at a staff meeting, one of your coworkers shares that the proposal you’d worked on all week has been shelved due to budget constraints. 

In our family, Burns’ quote is translated as, “You wanna make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” However you say it, the message is clear: Life keeps us humble. If we accept that we can’t control everything, and we’re going to have bad days, does that mean we have no control at all? Can we recover from a bad start? How do we reframe our thinking? I’ve met recently with four amazing women who practice surprisingly simple techniques that help them keep a healthy mindset, no matter what life throws their way. Their individual strategies may differ, but the overall message remains: We have the power to control our thinking and the way we react to life’s challenges. Let’s take a look at some ways we might do that.

Stephanie Feger, author of Color Today Pretty: An Inspirational Guide to Living a Life in Perspective, says that the way we perceive and react to the world around us gives us power. Negative self-talk becomes self-fulfilling. “What you think becomes what you speak becomes what you seek,” Stephanie says. “This doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen but that something good can come from something tough. I call it ‘realistic optimism.’ I don’t live in the clouds but like to jump in them sometimes.” 

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Stephanie’s Tips for Keeping a Healthy Perspective

  1. Create an easy-to-remember mantra that can ground you in the challenging moments. “Right now, I use one word: ‘truth.’ I ask myself, ‘What’s true in this situation?’”
  2. Start a happiness log. “We track our exercise and the food we eat. Why not keep a list of the moments that make us happy? Keep it in your car or purse, readily available when you’re down and need to read the list and reframe your perspective.”
  3. Surround yourself with people who truly support you. These are quality friends who can think productively for you in the moments when you aren’t capable of such clarity. 

P.S. Read how Dixie Oxford uses her perspective to not give up.

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