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How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation

5 steps to a better mindset and a better outcome.

Belchonok/Canva Pro
Source: Belchonok/Canva Pro

Whether it’s a long weekend with your difficult in-laws, a lost internet connection during an important interview, or a global pandemic, stuff happens.

How we face difficult times can make the difference between mere suffering and utter misery.

Here are five steps to consider the next time you find yourself wishing you were living someone else’s life.

1. Expand your timeline. Whatever is facing you, it’s probably not forever. Long weekends, interviews and even pandemics eventually give over to something else.

Keep your eye on the horizon. Remind yourself, “This too shall pass.” You won’t be stuck for eternity like an insect in prehistoric amber.

2. Focus on your capabilities. What’s within your control? Situations are made worse by a complete lack of power or control.

In many situations, we have more power than we realize. Estrangement from one’s adult child is a good example. Parents are often unaware that they can do something to change the picture.

Take appropriate action to avoid piling needless despair on top of suffering. And hold loosely whatever is truly outside your circle of influence.

3. Reduce expectations. If you’re dreading an upcoming event, assume there will be nothing enjoyable about it. But when it comes, stay open to what really happens.

That way you won’t miss the unexpected fact that you actually have fun playing Monopoly with your in-laws.

Reducing expectations means you won’t be disappointed… but you might be pleasantly surprised.

4. Do the bare minimum. When circumstances aren’t promising, that may be a good time not to knock yourself out. Just focus on getting through and out the other side.

For more on this tip, see my article on how to do the bare minimum.

5. Look for the silver lining. I don’t advocate silver-lining-hunting as a lifestyle. It’s too exhausting to do it daily, and may keep you from some healthy constructive wallowing.

But when your circumstances are truly dismal, an occasional nod to silver linings could help to lift a veil of gloom.

In almost any situation, there’s something to be grateful for—even if it’s only that “so-and-so didn’t live to see this.”

Think about the timing (“What if this had happened when I had shingles?”), the magnitude (things can almost always be worse), and who’s involved (“If this happened to my brother, he’d probably hurt someone and end up in prison.”)

If you take just one of the steps above, you may find that the situation feels a little less oppressive than it seemed at first. Good luck.