We all have those days. You know, those days, when you keep just getting hit with all the things. Of course, none of them are major. The collective toll, though, can take the wind out of your sails.
Early this morning (the day I’m writing this), our accountant sent a note that the IRS hadn’t received a payment that I mailed out last year. Upon investigating, I realized that someone took the check from the mail, forged their name, and cashed it in the amount we were sending to the government. I spent hours of the day working through the bank fraud department and gathering & collecting data for the claim.
This evening, our girls were fighting with each other and my wife Kristen and me, which raised the stress level in the house. Kristen and I snipped at each other. The mini-fridge in our garage apartment started leaking a foul-smelling sludge hours before an AirB&B guest was checking in. The smoke alarm went off when I was making frozen chicken nuggets for the girls’ dinner. Finally, Kristen found a roach in the cabinet, a long-standing pet peeve. With each of these small events, my stress level grew and grew.
And then, after working through all that, it came time for me to sit down and finally write this blog post. Normally, I’m writing this during the day, yet today the time I have blocked was filled with the check fraud. I found myself staring at the computer in the evening feeling defeated.
I didn’t want to write this post.
How could I possibly write a post that is meant to share wisdom about reducing stress, peak performance, joy & happiness, business & personal growth, when I felt as if I was doing none of that at the moment? I knew what I had planned to write about, yet it felt empty. I felt empty.
What I needed was a shift. I turned to a great book that I’m studying now “The Book of Joy” written by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu said it’s how we face the things in our lives that seem to be negative that determines the kind of person we become. The Dalai Lama wrote that joy is not about denial of pain & suffering, but shifting our perspective of the anguish we feel to compassion for others.
They say turning toward relationships and deepening our connections brings joy to ourselves and others. The more we lean into our relationships, the more joy we have to become, as the Archbishop puts it, “a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you.” That’s what we all want!
I had a choice. I could continue to brood and sit in my stress or I could shift into a state of compassion.
I choose the latter. Following the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Tutu’s advice, I focused on compassion and relationships. I walked out of my home office and apologized to Kristen for allowing the stress of the day to get the better of me. A genuine apology strengthened our bond in that moment, and the connection brought my stress meter down and my joy meter up.
That release of stress gave me space to show compassion to the person that cashed our tax check. I did a visualization exercise that allowed me to forgive them and realize the life of stress and fear that a person must experience if they believe that they have to steal from other people. Consider what it must be like to have that gut feeling that maybe someone is on to them and that the next phone call could be the authorities and it’s all over. Thinking about someone experiencing that constant anguish, compassion comes more easily.
And after a nice conversation with Kristen and a shift in perspective on the person that cashed the check, my stress from all the events of the day was gone. I felt lighter and inspired to write this post.
My hope is that this post is my way of living out what the Archbishop said. I hope it will be a ripple of joy out to those that read it. Some days we get dealt more negative stuff than others. That’s life. We must have the awareness of the stress that we’re experiencing and the courage to respond with kindness and compassion. When we do, we get to replace the negativity with even more joy & happiness.
I’m glad I wrote this!