Photo: PamLovesPie

Photo: PamLovesPie

There is really only one thing in this ever-changing, unpredictable, rollercoaster world that you have control over, and that is how you respond to this ever-changing, unpredictable, rollercoaster world. There are a couple of simple habits you can develop that will change the way you look at things, make you happier, and help you get better results.

Leftovers Again?

My nephew, chef-extraordinaire Jason Robertson (HeadwatersCafé.com), was on the popular cooking show “Chopped!” a few weeks ago. He and his fellow contestants were (to their obvious dismay) handed baskets of leftovers that included flat cola, mac & cheese, a sub sandwich, matzo ball soup, and a few other delectables that had been sitting around in someone’s fridge all week. From these ingredients they were supposed to prepare a three-course gourmet meal – with the caveat that they use all of the ingredients – whether a little or a lot. After each course one of the chefs is “chopped” from the competition until there is a lone winner.

You probably don’t have to think back too far to find a day in your life where you were handed a basket of – well, let’s call it leftovers just to be polite – and were expected to create something marvelous. How did you react? What did you create? Did you get “chopped”?

In any given situation, you can choose whether you approach a problem it with a positive, optimistic, creative mindset, or with a pessimistic, negative outlook. But make no mistake about it, your decision makes a difference and will change the outcome.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times…

Some believe there is perhaps something magical about positive thinking. Maybe so, but I think there are much more accessible forces at work. When you approach a problem or a situation with a positive mindset, it energizes you. It puts you in a creative frame of mind. You are on offense rather than defense. You are working from a position of power and control, rather than weakness. You are playing in the realm of possibilities rather than accepting your fate as a hapless victim of circumstance.

Being handed a basket of leftovers and being asked to work a miracle is what life is all about. It’s one of them there “Core Competencies” as we say in the biz. Watching the “Chopped!” chefs struggle to find a way to look at those baskets through their own unique lens – one that would let them see those ingredients as a gourmet meal – was a great reminder. We have choices. We have options. There are many other ways to see things, and we each have our own special sauce.

Keep It Positive

Here are a couple of tips you can use to maintain a positive, optimistic, and creative mindset in just about any situation:

1. Focus on things you can control

Your breath, attitude, actions, and belief always fall into that category. If there is something you can do, examine your options, choose a course, and take action. If you have no control and there is nothing you can do, let it be, forget about it, and move on to the next problem.

2. Reframe the situation

This means looking at the problem from a completely different perspective. If you have no viable options or alternatives, see what you can learn from this event that will help you in future situations. Can you use this opportunity to hone your skills or practice a new approach? Try to find the silver lining.

Chef Jason and his competitors, after their initial shock at what they had to work with, rolled up their sleeves and got after it. It was fascinating to see how they each approached the problem and the remarkable – and according to the judges – delicious dishes they created. Jason’s parting comment was, “I will never look at leftovers the same way again!”

So the next time life hands you a basket of, well you know, leftovers, you can throw up your hands and say “I can’t make anything from this!” and go hungry, or you can roll up your sleeves and get cooking!

So what techniques or habits do you rely on to stay positive and creative when the going gets tough? Would love to hear your thoughts!