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  • Writer's pictureKimberly LaBounty

Managing the Unexpected

I just returned from a conference in Vegas; one that I was the conference planner for, in charge of all the logistics of the meeting. After many years in this role, I know that there will always be something that happens that is out of your control, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible before you walk in the door.

This conference was no exception…

While the travel to Vegas was a bumpy start - the flight was cancelled due to weather, and I arrived eight hours later. However, it was the next day’s surprise that really tested us. We were told early in the afternoon that the hotel had oversold the hotel rooms so much that they would have to ask 40 of our registrants to stay someplace else that night. That’s about one third of our group.

As mentioned, something always happens. Sometimes breakfast comes out late or a speaker has trouble getting to the hotel, the presentation doesn’t work, or you run out of something and need to run to the local office supply store. Most of the time the average conference attendee doesn’t really notice. This was a biggie though, and a whole lot of people were affected. Playing my role as the now angry organizer, and my angry board of directors, we did what we could to argue to send someone else to another hotel but it didn’t work, so all we could do was negotiate concessions to our guests in addition to what was promised in our hotel contract. We also made the hotel GM get personally alert our registrants of what was happening and answer questions. The board and I did what we could, and now our registrants were experiencing the fallout. I’m reminded of the saying that “you can tell a lot about someone’s character by how they play the game; you can tell even more by how they lose.” In life, sometimes we lose.

“Life is ten percent what happens and ninety percent how you respond.”

How often in life do we encounter unexpected obstacles? How often in life do we spend more energy reacting, talking, and thinking about that obstacle than we need to? I’m not saying that we should dismiss anything negative that happens to us. On the contrary, there are times when we need to respond accordingly. But to relive the occurrence, again and again, for hours – days even – well, it just becomes wasted energy. There are too many things requiring our energy in life. We can stand to benefit from deleting anything that sucks too much of our energy away from something more important.

This is where mindfulness and resilience training come in – like the kind we’ll get at my women’s retreat this May. We all know that some things set us off more than others. Understanding what our triggers are, understanding how we respond to stressful situations, and learning ways to turn those reactions into thoughtful responses makes us better leaders, more productive, and let’s face it, we are easier to live with too! In chapter 3 of our retreat presenter’s recent book, The Mindful Day, Laurie Cameron shares some ways to “hardwire your brain for positivity”. Here are the six:

1. Settle Your Mind. Here, you need to get a hold of yourself; notice how you feel, notice your thoughts and emotions. Become present and even notice how you are sitting or standing.

2. Start With Breathing. No matter how much in the “heat of the moment” you might be, breathe. Take one breath or ten, but notice them. Feel the air come in and feel the air go out. You’ll notice your body settle a little.

3. Gladden Your Heart. For as little gratitude you might feel, taking a moment to take your attention to something or someone you love, or looking for a different perspective will help to warm the moment. If you were one of my attendees who had to stay elsewhere, consider it an opportunity to see a different part of the strip. In this case many of the rooms they stayed in were upgrades, with amazing views of the strip, a suite, or both. The hotel was also paying for that night, so in some cases, it was less money out of the attendee’s pocket.

4. Loving-kindness for Today. Cameron suggests thinking about all those you will encounter the rest of the day. Remember they are people too – some of whom have had a worse day than you have. Feel kindness toward them.

5. Take in the Good. Cameron encourages us to appreciate the contributions we are making, whether it is as a parent, as an employee, as a friend, sibling, volunteer, etc. Consider what is going well. Take some time to let it sink in.

6. See and Savor Joy. “The practice of deliberately paying attention to the joyful moments in your life slowly starts to transform your day, and your life,” says Cameron. So take notice of the waging tail of your dog, or the chirp of a bird outside. Feel the warmth of the sun and see the warmth in the smile of another.

We all encounter challenges. But like Toby Mac says, “No one can ruin your day without your permission. Remember that.”

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