I’m not much into the game of golf, (I’m more of a black coffee, fast internet, new shoes kind of guy) but I’ve always loved this quote from Jack Nicklaus, a man who is widely regarded as one of greatest golfers of all time. He said:
“I have always felt that the mettle of a player is not how well he’s playing when he’s playing well, but how well he scores and plays when he’s playing poorly.” – Jack Nicklaus
This was Nicklaus’ response when he was asked what makes for a great golfer. What he is saying here is that the best athletes can still have a good game, even when everything is going wrong.
“What does this have to do with me have having a good day?” you might be wondering. Well, I would challenge you to ask yourself this, “How do I perform when things aren’t going well? How do I respond when things in my day aren’t going my way?”
The easiest thing in the world is to let one misstep, one mistake, take you to a place you can’t recover from. You slept through your alarm, you hair won’t cooperate, you realize your phone didn’t charge overnight, this red light is taking way too long, and now you’re in a bad mood, and by 9 a.m. you’re asking, “Can it just be tomorrow already?” I know, I’ve been there. How do you respond when you feel your day has slipped into a funk? How can you have a good day, even when it’s been a bad day? The worst thing about being victimized by the circumstances of your day or your attitude toward them, is that it’s impossible to be a victim and a victor at the same time.
So here are five things I do to take back my day, to declare war on the negativity that wants to seep in, and to steer my day in the direction I want it to go.
Call it out, name what it is that is frustrating you, point out where things went wrong. This takes some introspection. This could be as simple as processing internally on your drive into the office or during a walk on your lunch break, but one of the greatest aids in this process is journaling. Writing down your thoughts can cause you stumble on something you might not have noticed otherwise. Maybe this is something you can do at the end of each day to take some inventory. For me, journaling has been huge. My first book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, came from a full year of journal entries as I processed my thoughts and feelings walking through the darkest days of my life. You might not even need the next four steps after this one, because a lot of times, this one will shed light on your situation or your attitude and get you to the bottom of your funk.
Not everyday is an Instagram photo. There are off days, there are challenging seasons, there are frustrating circumstances, and one way you can help yourself have a good bad day is to accept it. Don’t pretend the feelings aren’t real and don’t pretend this doesn’t happen to everyone. Nobody is happy all of the time. There are ebbs and flows, ups and downs and if we start striving for a life of constant euphoria, we’re being unrealistic.
Joshua Waitzkin said in his book, The Art of Learning, “It is common knowledge that [Michael] Jordan made more last- minute shots to win the game for his team that any other player in the history of the NBA. What is not so well known, is that Jordan also missed more last-minute shots to lose the game for his team than any other player in the history of the game. What made him the greatest was not perfection, but a willingness to put himself on the line as a way of life.”
Off days are a part of the process. We’ve all been there, we’ll be there again, and it’s in learning how to accept it and pushing through anyway that you will find growth.
Resist the urge to treat yo’ self.
I know, I went there. This is the most counter-intuitive of this list. But don’t we all do this this?: “Man this day has been vicious. I deserve some ice cream.” or “I know what I’m gonna do after this terrible day is over…binge watch some Netflix.” At the end of a bad day, we often come up with a way to treat ourselves for surviving. This sounds like a great idea, but in reality what we are doing is rewarding bad behavior. If you’ve raised kids, or pets, you know the rule: praise what you want to see repeated. So when you praise yourself at the end of a bad day, and you treat yourself with a reward, you’re actually just training your brain to approach tomorrow as if it’s a bad day before it even starts. Treating yourself to a brownie is one way to have a bad day, but it’s not the way to have a good bad day.
On the flip side of this, instead of treating yourself at the end of your day, identify something you can accomplish to turn your day around.
Identify something you can accomplish.
You can respond to all that has happened in your day by choosing to pick out something that you can accomplish, and crushing it before the day is out. In other words, declaring: “This day will not end like this. This day will end with victory”. If you let those words come out of your mouth after acting the way you didn’t want to act, responding the way you didn’t want to respond or performing the way you didn’t want to perform, and instead of going to bed defeated with a twinkie in your hand, you said to yourself: “This day will not end like this. This day will end with victory” I’m telling you, those words will be the making of a good ending to a bad day.
Identify a micro goal, maybe something you don’t have to do but you can chip away at. Maybe something that isn’t due quite yet but you can knock it out and take it off of your to-do list. Doing this, regardless of how small the accomplishment is, can cause you to look back on your day with pride knowing that you clawed the trophy from the jaws of what was promising to be a no good very bad day. The last thing you can do is to focus on what you can control.
Focus on what you can control.
Remember: you do not have to be the victim to your bad behavior, to others actions, or to your lousy day. No matter what is happening in your world, you have the option, and you have the ability, to focus on what you can control and to have the mindset of a creator. To create something brand new from the situation you are in.
I’m willing to bet many of you are saying to yourself right now: “but I can’t control the way so-and-so treated me!” or “I didn’t choose for this to happen to me.” or “this guy is crazy, he doesn’t even know” …and you might be right. You can’t always control the entire situation, and it doesn’t mean that others actions toward you were okay, but you can focus on what is w ithin your control. Let me explain with this formula:
whatever happened + your response = the outcome
The power is in the middle slot! You have a say in the matter. You don’t just have to slide through your day succumbing to the cruelty of life, you can take back control of your bad mood or your difficult day. Maybe that conversation wasn’t awesome, the start to your day wasn’t ideal, your meeting didn’t go great, your kids are being crazy, but you can take back the reins by saying “God, you have given me a part to play.” You can take control, and create something new by being in charge of your response. You don’t have to do everything you feel like doing. You don’t have to say everything you feel like saying. Choose your response, and in doing so, you will create a new outcome.
I want to show you an example of these five things played out in the Bible, in the life of a man named Joseph. If you haven’t read about Joseph – do it! (You can find his story in Genesis 37-45) But if you have, you know that Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers, sold to slavery and thrown into prison in the house of a man name Potiphar. Talk about a bad day. Or a bad decade.
Joseph knew the “bad day” well, people slandering him, lying about him, hating him and because of this, he shows us a beautiful example of how to have a good bad day. Joseph could have given into the mentality of “treating himself’ when Potiphar’s wife came onto him. He could have complained about the hand that had been dealt to him in life. But he chose to carry himself with poise, he identified small wins, he focused on what he could control and he did the good that he could do, despite not being able to do the good he would have loved to do.
Let me elaborate. Eventually he would save his brothers and save all of Israel, but in this moment he couldn’t, so he did the good that he could , which was to make sure Potiphar’s house was taken care of and that the prison was clean. He would eventually interpret Pharaoh dream, but right now all he could do was interpret the baker’s dream, so he did that. He didn’t let what was a bad situation dictate how he would respond, and how he would come out on the other side of it.
Let the same be said of us. On days where you wished things were just turning out better, on the days you wished you were playing better, in the seasons you wished life was unfolding a little smoother, do the good that you can, take control of your response because you can, accomplish the goal that you can, and watch how even a bad day, can become a good bad day.
Levi Lusko is the author of the bestselling books “Through the Eyes of a Lion” and “Swipe Right.” He is also the lead pastor of Fresh Life Church – a multisite church located in Montana, Utah, Oregon, and Wyoming that he and his wife Jennie pioneered in 2007. Levi travels around the world speaking about Jesus. He takes pleasure in small things, such as black coffee, new shoes, fast Internet, and falling asleep in the sun. He and his wife have one son: Lennox, and four daughters: Alivia, Daisy, Clover, and Lenya, who is in heaven. His new book “I Declare War,” is now available.
For more of our conversation and even more details from Levi and his journey, listen to his episode on the WTG Podcast!