Focus on What Goes Right, Not Wrong

Denise
Sue has just arrived to work--and it's already mid-morning. Frustrated, nervous and at her wit's end, she only wants to sit in her cube and cry. But, she can't. Her presentation is set to begin in 15 minutes--a presentation, if it goes well, that could net her the promotion she's been hoping for.

Rather than reviewing her presentation one last time, Sue can't think of anything but this morning. "Why this morning of all mornings!" She laments to herself. "I just can't get a break."

Sue cares for her father, Ben. Ben has lived with Sue and her family for more than 18 months. Ben is 89-years-old and too frail and elderly to live alone. Although lucid, communicating with Ben can sometimes be challenging because he is hard of hearing. In addition, Ben has crippling arthritis, which makes gripping items, such as utensils, very difficult.

Sue works full-time and tries to juggle her responsibilities as wife, mother, grandmother and daughter the best she can.

This morning, for Sue, it seems anything that can go wrong does go wrong. Her father wakes up with a slight fever and complains he doesn't feel well. Sue doesn't want to send him to the adult day center that he attends daily and feels he should stay home. However, Sue can't miss work today--not with that big presentation at 11:00. Her husband, who isn't quite convinced that his father-in-law should be living with them (he would prefer to have Sue to himself), also wakes up feeling under the weather--and in a horrific mood.

It's now 6:30 a.m. Sue decides to get ready for work first and then attend to her father and her husband, in that order. Once dressed, she calls her father's physician and leaves a message with the answering service for him to return her call. She then calls the social service agency that subsidizes her father's adult day care service and leaves a message for someone to return her call ASAP. She hopes the agency can arrange for a home health aide for her father today.

She then prepares "sick trays" for her father and husband, which consists of essentials they will need throughout the day: juice and water, crackers and reading material for her husband. She helps her father first, who is pleasant although still running a fever. She knows her father won't mind if she doesn't spend much time with him.

Next she moves on to her husband. After sympathizing and empathizing with her husband long enough for the steam to dissipate from his ears, Sue sits with her husband as he finishes his breakfast of juice and toast.

At 7:15, she receives a return call from the physician, who gives her instructions for her father's care and which symptoms to be concerned about if they develop. He also specifies at which point her father would require professional care.

At 8:05, the social worker from the agency returns her call. A home health aide can be arranged. The cost will be higher than a day at the day care center, but Sue doesn't flinch. She needs to be a work without a guilty conscience. That's worth any money.

The aide will arrive between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., so Sue contacts her boss. Indicating that she will a little late for work, she also assures her boss that her presentation is complete. She's ready.

When the home health aide arrives at 9:15, Sue has spent time explaining to her father that an aide will take care of him and that if he has any problems, he should ask for her husband. She also asks her husband to look in on her father throughout the day--when he feels up to it. At 9:20, Sue is out the door and on her way to work.

Talk about a challenging morning! Sue has done an admirable job of rolling with the punches while ensuring that her goal--getting to work and getting care for her father--are met.

But, unfortunately, the stress of the morning has Sue focusing on what went wrong (and there was plenty of that) rather than on what she did right. When Sue arrives for her work, she should focus on the next task--last minute preparations for presentations--and let go of what happened at home. She did her best and that's what's most important.

The lesson? Try to avoid that trap of beating yourself up for situations that are out of your control. Instead, savor what you do right. You'd be amazed at how much of that you do throughout the day!

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