“If you can say the word ‘good’, guess what? It means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, well then hell, you’ve still got some fight left in you” - Jocko Willink
What do you do when things go wrong? When something pops up out of the blue and screws up your day?
Curse, get angry, start chucking things around. All reasonable responses, something has come along through no fault of your own and spoiled your plans.
How rude of it/them.
Do they not know how long we’ve been at this? How much that’s wrecked my day, week, or month? Out of nowhere, like an inconsiderate arsehole.
That’s going to add so much blah blah blah to my day!
I’m under enough stress as it is!!
I'm so pissed off right now!
Uhhh I need a drink...
OK let’s stop that there - I’ve now wasted precious lines and bits of time to doing absolutely nothing but complain. We’ve gotten nowhere apart from venting some hot air, and in this case ended up going out to get some bevs (beverages of the alcoholic nature).
No doubt we’ve had a good time, venting and getting wasted, but has it helped our situation at all? Chances are, not much.
It’s the same with training, don’t make the progress you want? Get an injury that stops you working out? Gym is busy? A lot of people get down and give up on that day. Some will get angry, start venting and doing something unrelated to their goal.
The things is, it’s an emotional response, and I get it - we can’t choose what emotion we have. If we get a flash of anger, we get a flash of anger. If we feel butterflies, we feel butterflies.
What we can choose though, is our thoughts and actions. How we react to something - not how we feel about it, but how we react.
In the italic example above, something happens and all I focus on is how it makes me feel, how it affects my day, what I think of them, and how to feel better (I know not everyone is going to react like that, this is just a more exaggerated example to illustrate the point). At no point is there thoughts to “how to fix or adapt” or even “how can I make the most of this situation?”.
All I’m looking at is “what’s gone wrong” (past) and “how do I feel” (emotion). I know that was my normal reaction to almost any hiccup or change in plan, even a regular plan that I just didn’t like - dwell on it, getting wound up and complaining about it to anyone that would listen, probably drinks later to let off steam. I’d maybe try to include humour in my scathing remarks to make it more palatable to whoever was stuck listening to me, but the formula was still the same:
Focus on emotion - dwell on what can’t be changed - complain & whinge - go oot.
Not so productive.
So how can we disrupt the pattern? By changing what we focus on, and using the emotional energy on that.
Instead of “OMG I’ve picked up an injury”, it’s “I’ve picked up an injury, how can I fix it or train around it?”. Instead of “WTF asshole, why aren’t you doing your job?”, it’s “maybe they need help, how can I help the process along?”. Instead of “FFS I’VE HIT EVERY SINGLE RED LIGHT”, it’s “ahh finally, time to change the song" or " ah, maybe I should give them a heads up that I'm running late”.
I’m not perfect at this by any means - I still have plenty days that I whinge and complain without doing anything, but I’ve gotten better at stopping for a second and thinking about what I’m doing and how much I’m letting my emotion dictate what I’m focusing on.
Slowly shifting from dwelling on what can’t be changed, to looking at how to take the next step forward. Training, normal day life, whatever, just taking a moment to focus on what the goal is, and how to take a step towards it with the current hand that is dealt.
The much more succinct way of thinking about it is “GOOD”. This is an way of thinking from Jocko Willink (Navy Seal Commander, author, and presents badass podcast “Jocko Podcast”, which I highly recommend), and is summed up in that one word.
The idea is that what’s happened has happened, we can’t change that, so how can you make the most of it? How can you turn it to your advantage, making the next outcome GOOD?
This is similar to Tony Robbins idea that life is always happens for us, not to us. So events and situations are not all doom and gloom, they’re a chance for us to adapt, grow, and develop somehow. You just need to figure out how, by asking yourself, “what can I do to help someone, learn or grow here?”.
The simpler question is to ask yourself why it’s GOOD.
Didn't get the job? Good. That means more time to learn and develop skills. Get a better job.
Got injured? Good. That means time to heal, time to focus on ways around it/styles of training.
Plans fell through? Good. That means we can focus more on the others.
Didn’t play well? Good. That means there’s something to learn and build on for next time.
This isn’t an easy way to think - especially on more emotionally charged events - but even there we can find some way to grow or help others. Maybe it gives you a chance to talk openly with someone about something, build a relationship (not necessarily romantic, could be a work, friend or family), appreciate what we have in our lives.
I’m not saying we should think of the event itself as good, I’m saying the opportunities in front of us and the actions we take can be. We can take something awful, go from that terrible moment and produce something good instead of more destruction. Instead of putting bad into the world, find a way to put some good into it.
We might not be able to control what happened or what emotions we’re feeling, but we can control our actions.
We might as well do our best to make them good ones.
NB: For extra GOOD oomph, check out this short video made by Echo Charles, Jocko's co-host and main media man. It's a quick snippet of Jocko talking about the GOOD way of thinking with some rad guitar in the background