It can be tough to be happy in bad (or even just unusual) situations. Emotions overwhelm us and threaten to disturb our inner-peace. Yet we can each use the power of spontaneity to be a little happier, even in the worst of times.
Somewhere in the world, Edward Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) is laughing from his grave. “What can go wrong, will.” I cannot count how many times things have gone wrong on the road, but at the end of the day everything always turns out okay – sometimes ever for the better.
This, to me, is spontaneity: wanting what you get, instead of getting what you want. It is about flipping your brain upside down. It is about seeing the world the way you want to see it. Likewise, the dictionary would define it as follows:
Having and open, natural, and uninhibited manner
In this podcast/post I’ll discuss the nature of spontaneity, and how it can help you to be happy in even the worst of situations.
Listen to this podcast below, or subscribe on iTunes.
Reframing a Bad Situation
The key to being able to be happy with what you get is to do something called “reframing.” Basically this is a way of choosing to see something in a positive light (or frame) instead of the obvious negative way. This is a trick in all different disciplines, even in psychotherapy, such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Frequently in traveling, even when something goes terribly wrong, I meet someone who is new and interesting. Making a friend is always a benefit to me that can outweigh a great deal of difficulty and pain.
Even when I do not make a new friend, the case is always that I end up with an interesting story. I dare say that I do many of the things in my life simply for the story – to be able to laugh at myself later. Travelers are collectors of absurd stories, so the harder the situation the more “wealth” a traveler aquires.
A Recent Anecdote
I was trying out the website AirBnB for the first time when I visited Geneva, Switzerland last weekend. I had paid to rent out someone’s apartment for two days during my stay and was very excited to have a comfortable place to crash for the weekend, while passing through on my way back to Montpelier France. She was out of town for the weekend and had left her apartment keys with her friend for me to pick up.
I landed in the Geneva airport around 10pm and by the time I picked up the keys it was well past 11pm. When I finally reached the front door of the apartment I just wanted to pass out and was relieved to finally be “home.” I stuck the key into the lock, turned, and… nothing.
What followed was 2 hours of talking to neighbors, calling the owner and so on. I had not spoken French in about 6 weeks (it is also used in this part of Switzerland) and my fatigue was not helping. To make a long story short, it turned out that the owner had accidentally left her work keys with her friend instead of the apartment keys. Her friend kindly came and met me at the apartment so we could try to figure out what to do, as it was already past 1am.
At this point, I had a decision to make. I could have been grumpy and upset with the situation. Indeed, this was my natural reaction. Instead, I made a conscious decision to reframe the situation. Instead of being a disaster, it was an opportunity to make a new friend. We ended up spending the next couple hours traveling all around the city, waiting at bus stops, meeting other people and sharing a bottle of wine. My new friends were frankly surprised at my composure – I had to reassure them frequently that everything was quite all right because they did not seem to believe it! In any case, the night was fun.
Oh, and I ended up at a hotel… and AirBnB.com ended up being great and helping to resolve the financial situation, too. It may have been stressful, but it also ended up being a good experience.
Sometimes you have to fight for yourself and for your rights; people will, on occasion, try to (or even accidentally) screw you over. It is a fine line to walk to understand when someone else has made a mistake, when that person is intentionally trying to get the upper hand. We all have our own sense of propriety and sometimes these do not align well.
When someone has made an innocent mistake, as was the case with the story here, it puts everyone in an awkward position. In the end, for me, I balance my emotions against the cost. In essence there is an emotional value of a dollar. At a certain point the stress that the fight would cause is not worth the benefit of winning. Once I feel that I have exceeded this value, the fight becomes more detrimental than beneficial and I choose not to fight it.
It is all a matter of adapting and accepting. I try to go with the flow of life as much as possible, fighting only battles that need to be fought. I accept when things go wrong and try to turn them into something good in my mind. This is the essence of spontaneity.
Are you a spontaneous person? Do you have a story like this? Let me know below!