Earlier in March, we attended an Optimism seminar hosted by Janne Willems;  a woman in pursuit of collecting happy moments of people in every continent. Along the way, she teaches people how to be optimistic like her – finding the positives in a negative situation. We decided to share with you what we learnt at this seminar!

Identifying setbacks and setback strategies.
First, we were given small squares of paper to anonymously write down everything and anything that has gone wrong in our lives (setbacks). On other pieces of paper, we wrote down strategies that we often use to help ourselves. We then worked through a series of exercises. The first involved writing down 3 setbacks of differing severities that we have personally experienced, followed by the strategies we used to deal with each of these. A group discussion of general strategies took place. Here is what Janne and other people had to share:

  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
  • Change your perspective.
  • Accept what you can’t change.
  • Share your feelings with others to lighten the burden.
  • Stop depending on the “would have, could have, should have’s”. It’s done now.
  • Look at the bigger picture.
  • Ask yourself: “will this setback matter in a year?”
  • Allow yourself to feel emotions, and then ask yourself “What can I do to fix this?”
  • Learn that time heals. Sometimes we can’t just “get over” things, but we get stronger everyday and are able to with time.
  • Have a sense of humour about the crappy situations – it can help to get through them.

Drawing something from nothing.forced-perspective-photography (22)
The next exercise involved partnering up, and having our partner scribble something on a piece of paper. Next, our partner told us to create a drawing of their choosing from this scribble. It was quite challenging, but funny. The goal of this exercise was to train yourself to make something from nothing – to see something positive in the negative.

The last exercise was a game. Janne had collected the small pieces of paper that had the setbacks and strategies written on them. She shuffled them and gave them out at random. We then had to appropriately match the strategies to the setbacks – like a game of cards. There was much emphasis on appropriate matching, for example, if one of the setbacks was about losing someone dear to you, you wouldn’t put down a strategy card that says “laugh about it”! This exercise was helpful as it gave us different strategies, and made us analyse which would work best in the given situation.

More advice from Janne.

Take something positive from the situation. Janne told us a story of how she got locked out of her host’s house at 12am, and no one was home to let her in. So she chose to venture the streets of Melbourne, and found herself in a small bar. Here she had a laugh with some strangers, and when it was time to close up, the bartender let her stay at her place. Instead of staying upset and frustrated, and without a place to stay, Janne ended up having a great night and meeting new people!

Keep a journal for your future: what you want to achieve, and so on. Knowing your values and goals will help you rebound faster, as it allows you to keep in things in perspective, and helps you to stay focused on the things that truly matter. 

Dealing with rejection. Janne relies on random people in the streets to contribute to her mission, so she is often faced with “rejection”. However, Janne does not see it as rejection. She believes that a question has two valid answers – yes or no. “No” is still a valid answer, and is therefore not a form of rejection. It takes a little while to wrap your head around, but it makes sense. In other words, she is saying that it’s not really rejection when someone says no to you – there was always going to be a chance of them saying “no”. It’s what we associate with the answer “no” that makes us feel rejected.

Changing the narrative. Just like we can edit a Facebook post, we can edit a situation. Here’s how: Step 1) Accept your feelings. Step 2) Identify what will make you feel better. Or in other words, how do you want to view this situation? E.g. do you want to be humble and walk away from a potential argument? Do you want to laugh it off and not take it to heart? Step 3) Do that!  Do what you have identified in Step 2. Do what you need to do to make the situation into a positive one, or so that you can accept and learn from it at least.

The verdict.
We were motivated by Janne’s free spirit and to utilise the strategies learnt. We all grow up being told to look at the brighter side, being told “it could have been worse", but these things don’t necessarily help us pick ourselves up from a crappy situation. This seminar really put things into perspective. It is so important that we keep moving forward, despite whatever life throws at us. We are stronger than we realise. If you feel like you can’t do it alone, than enlist in the help of a loved one – there is strength in numbers.

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Published by Mim & Fif Blog