There’s immense power in being able to shrug things off.

Last week, I was working on figuring out dates and travel arrangements for our family vacation… the one which is supposed to take place in the middle of the summer!

As cognitively dissonant as it feels to be obligated to commit now for things that are occurring literally five months from now—especially while thick snow is still falling—we’re heading to a pretty magnificent archipelago in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It being a group of islands and all, it’s only accessible by air or by sea. Which means that tickets are limited, hence the extra early (to my feeling) booking.

Already having had to compromise on some travel dates, as there were already no spots available on the ferry when I wanted them, I was on the phone with a company rep to inquire about getting a cabin for the overnight ferry ride that I had been forced to book (as opposed to traveling by day).

“Oh, there are no cabins left”, she chuckled. When I expressed my dismay, she casually told me that people had started booking them last October.

I thanked her as warmly as I could and hung up.

And that’s when I felt it: that strange stinging feeling in my nose that’s the telltale sign that tears are on their way. My instinctive reaction was to get upset.

Interestingly, I was able to catch myself. This reaction wasn’t serving me; I was being pulled in by a victim mindset.

I stopped, took a deep breath. And then I moved on.


Every single day, in all of our interactions from the most mundane to the most significant, there’s immense potential for things not to go our way.

Life as a whole cares very little for our personal preferences, doesn’t it? That said, while we can’t control all the events circumstances that surround out, our reaction to these events and circumstances is our sole responsibility and no one else’s.

In the example above, I could have easily spiraled into a vortex of negative thoughts:

This trip is going to be the worst!
The overnight ferry trip is going to be so uncomfortable!
I can’t believe we won’t even have a bed to sleep in!
Ugh, we’re going to be wrecked when we get to our destination!

Instead, I chose to put things into perspective.

Now, that expression “putting things into perspective” can be a tricky one. I’m not talking about berating ourselves for feeling disappointment.

In this specific instance, remembering that refugees are crossing the sea by the thousands each day—and in really unsafe boats, at that—would indeed be putting things into perspective, but not in the most helpful way.

In fact, I believe that would have only served to make things worse: not only are we feeling disappointed, but we’re now ashamed that we’re acting like spoiled babies. It’s also keeping us helpless.

On the other hand, if the perspective we take is: Am I going to let my whole afternoon be ruined by this incident? We’re centering on what we are actually in charge of—ourselves!

Emotional flexibility reflects the capacity to move freely
and appropriately along a wide spectrum of emotions
rather than responding rigidly or defensively.
Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from
experiences of disappointment, frustration and even loss.
Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz — The Power of Full Engagement


Being able to get over it doesn’t mean that we have to suppress how we feel. It’s quite the opposite, actually: by refusing to acknowledge what’s going on inside ourselves, ignoring and bottling things up, we’re staying stuck in the throes of our primary emotional response.

We’ve all experienced this: a difficult situation arises, and when pressed to say what the matter is, either we or the other person involved exclaims “It’s fine!” when it’s perfectly clear that it’s not.

That doesn’t resolve anything, does it?

I think that there’s great power in naming things. There’s nothing wrong per se with feeling negative emotions—anger, disappointment, resentment, jealousy. It’s what we do with them that makes or break us.

When we hold on to these negative emotions, we surrender our power. When we acknowledge them and then choose to let them go, they lose their hold over us and we put ourselves back in the driver’s seat of our life.

I don’t believe in looking at life through rose-coloured glasses. What I do believe in is owning both our light and our darkness, but having the discernment to choose which one will lead us.

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