One of my favourite books is “Don’t be sad” by Aid al-Qarni. It is riddled with practical examples on how to deal with adversity and develop a pragmatic approach to dealing with life’s problems. Problems are a part of life. Nobody is going to have good days all the time. There will be situations that annoy us, make us angry or make us want to despair. Our feelings can have a very large influence on our productivity by being either positive or negative force multipliers. If you wake up with a smile on your face and get a healthy breakfast, you are likely to approach the day’s tasks with a more positive frame of mind. Start the day with a fight after having slept fitfully without electricity and being bitten throughout the night by mosquitoes, however, and your productivity is likely to take a nosedive for the rest of the day.
A greater part of how you feel at the moment comes from within. It is a response to how you choose to react to situations. Everyone will have bad days. Everyone encounters people that will annoy them. Recently, I saw a tweet where someone mentioned how she got into an argument with a friend and because they were both looking at the matter from different points of view, she described how she went into fight or flight response. Her heartbeat rose and if she hadn’t taken the time to take a deep and calming breath, she would have replied with words she might have regretted later. Instead, she chose to ask the person to explain their view and gradually she came to realise her friend’s opinion was just as valid as hers. She could have chosen to react differently, gotten into a fight and probably lost a friend that day, which would have had an impact on how the rest of her day went. Instead, she chose to react to an external stimulus calmly.
We all have things that rile us. In 2018, I travelled to Kaduna for an exam and needed to take a tricycle to my exam venue. The venue was not far from Kawo Motor Park where I had just gotten off but when I asked a tricycle operator to take me there, he demanded ₦1,000. Ordinarily, I would have gotten angry and told him a few choice words. Instead, I chose to react differently. I had an exam to write and getting angry about transport fare wouldn’t help me perform better. I thanked the tricycle operator, walked a few metres away from the bus stop and flagged another tricycle. My transport fare was ₦150.
I gave the example above to highlight how in everyday interactions, you are likely to encounter people who will try to take advantage of you. The default response for many of us would be to get annoyed, angry and react. If you do that, however, you are likely to carry those negative feelings with you for a few hours at least and they will colour your perception of subsequent events for the rest of the day. Instead, make a choice to control, the only thing you can in that situation: your reaction. The first tricycle operator was only trying to hustle a traveller for money. It was the only way he knew to make extra cash. Nothing I said at that point was likely to change that so I chose to walk away.
The next time you encounter a similar situation, try not to let it ruin your mood. Staying productive requires focus and commitment. You need all the positive force multipliers you can get.