It’s not often that the tail end of a terrible day would make for an ideal photo op.
But, despite the disappointment endured on our long journey, which the popped hood of my truck indicates, only got worse, I snapped the photo anyway.
The mood was lighter than one might have thought.
It had been an early start for a hopeful and anxious drive, clashes with powers that be (they won), a discouraging drive back, a broken-down car, a phone that wouldn’t charge, and a mechanic who wasn’t home.
But look closely at this photo; look at the faces of my passengers—pondering, calm, patient, amused. I snapped the shot, and I can assure you, my mood was just as light and jovial as theirs seem to be. But the truth is, the moods could have flipped and gone the other way in a snap.
Behind us, a baying and agitated donkey halted the descent of any gloomy silence. Muddy pigs meandered along the curve of the dirt road. Chickens pecked. Our dog was sweet and calm. The setting was otherwise peaceful, and business as usual for the rural Nicaraguan town we had broken down in.
It was heading into the 10th hour in the heat of a day gone wrong, but reflecting back, there had been so much to keep our dispositions buoyant.
In fact, three essential tools had been employed to shift the narrative of our story: gratitude, positivity, and taking action.
When we looked for it, the things we could be grateful for abounded. Our 5 a.m. departure rewarded us with stunning sunrise views of cloud-capped volcanoes and vast stretches of shimmering green farmland.
While our mission for the morning had been squashed, we had discovered other options to try again, and opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
While it was fortunate to have broken down a few meters from my mechanic, and unfortunate that he wasn’t home, the fortune returned as several friends just happened to pass by and stopped.
While my phone initially couldn’t pick up a signal, the signal grew strong just outside a small pulperia (a small local shop) where we bought the coldest, most refreshing beers. Having lived in Nicaragua for a few years, the locals on the road were those we knew well, so friendly exchanges and waves ensued along our short walk in search of aid.
In less than half an hour, a good friend (with tow straps) came to our rescue and towed us for the remainder of our journey. We arrived home just before the darkening clouds no one dared mention cracked open into a tropical storm.
I remember feeling grateful to be in the company of good-vibing people—which brings me to positivity.
I could have told the same story, littering it with angry swear words, an emphasis on each item gone frustratingly wrong, predicting more and more doom awaiting us. But looking back, I’m reminded of how much worse a situation becomes from the negative energy we release toward it.
The energy we bring affects ourselves, others with us, and, ultimately, the outcome of our story.
Positivity truly takes us higher. If you struggle to stay positive from your own efforts, then surround yourself with these good-vibing, positive people. Choose them for your friends and be nice to them.
This is how we shift the narrative of our story; leaning into gratitude and staying positive are powerful tools.
I understand that sometimes we might feel the urge to roll our eyes when told to “stay positive.” When we’re beaten-up from the day already, and then our car breaks down, and then the mechanic isn’t home, and then and then and then…
But the advice is spot on.
When we are negative, we see only darkness. We can’t see the road out ahead when our faces our turned down toward the shadows. Positivity is a light allowing us to clearly see options and illuminates opportunities.
I easily could have sat in my car and cried. I most definitely have done that before when I felt everything was working against me. But this time I didn’t; I stayed light. My passengers kept any dismay at bay or refused to let it in. The donkey made us laugh and our dog made us smile and scratch her ears with affection. It was all going to be okay.
After gratitude and positivity, the third step is a breeze: take action.
One way to battle fear, depression, anxiety, and uncertainty is to do something. If we’ve mastered gratitude and positivity, then this next step will come easily to us.
Do something. Wave down a friend. Call your spouse. Buy a cold drink. Concoct a plan. Engineer a reliable way to keep a knot tied so the tow straps do their job and pull your heavy Land Cruiser all the way home over unpaved, rutted, muddy roads.
Using these three tools is how to become unstuck. This is where the power of gratitude and the strength of positivity provide us with the clarity to take action and move toward a better place.
Remember that the next time you’re having a terrible day and nothing seems to be working out for you. You will see, some parts are going right.
Take a moment to find the good in the day and be grateful for it. If being positive is a struggle, borrow some of that positivity from a friend (and try not to glare at them—they are helping).
Then take action. Take the next best step.
I promise you—things will get better when you do.