How are you … really?

Your response could change everything

I’ve dubbed last year as “the year I didn’t recognize myself.” That’s right: I’m not wasting any space by gently easing you into things; I’m hitting you with the good stuff right off the hop. I felt stuck. I felt frustrated. I was unsure of the path that I was on. I was struggling with personal relationships. I didn’t understand how the life I was living looked nothing like the one I envisioned for myself or that that I knew I was capable of creating. The reality was that I wasn’t in love with my life and it was a mental minefield.

For the purpose of keeping my sanity, I’d like to think that at one point or another we’ve all been there. We’ve all doubted ourselves, seriously questioned our paths, misunderstood people in our lives, and were generally not all that happy. Anyone with me? (Also for the purpose of my sanity, I’m going to imagine that at least a handful of you said, “Heck ya, Nics – we’re with you!) The tricky part about maneuvering your way out of this highly explosive minefield is that you have to look inward, which is, coincidentally, the very last place you’re interested in looking. You have to dig deep, ask some serious questions, and most importantly turn that finger of blame from the rest of the world and point it directly back at yourself. Once I was ready for this, it slowly began to happen.

While there were a number of factors that contributed to this awakening of mine, looking back, one of the first stepping stones was when I posed a challenge to myself. It was simple – whenever I was asked the question, “How are you today, Nics?” I forbid myself to respond with any of the following:

“I’m okay.”
“I’m fine.”
“I’m really busy, but I’ll survive.”
“I’ve been worse.”

The idea for this experiment was sparked one day when I asked a coworker that very question, and they responded by emitting the longest and most drawn-out sigh in history, followed by an equally mind-numbing: “Ohhh, I’ll survive.” Yuuuuuuccckkk! Day after day, I would ask the same question and they would sigh their way through their response. Each time I left the encounter feeling slightly deflated and thinking, “Sweet Jesus, is there not something about this day that they have to be happy about or grateful for? Does nothing put even a hint of a smile on their face?!?!”

After months of the same encounter, I became more aware of my own response to this question and I started taking mental notes. Thankfully, there was no lack of evidence for me to review, because let’s face it: In the world of social interaction, this phrase definitely tips the scales when it comes to most frequently asked daily question. So began my research.

Random person: “How are you doing today, Nics?”
Me: “I’m fine.”
Random person: “Nics, how have things been with you lately?”
Me: “I’m okay, but have just been so busy. I literally have something on the go every weekend. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!”

I found that my responses could definitely be clumped into the Negative Nancy category. I took a step back to reflect. While I could rattle off a list of things I’m grateful for on the spot, when asked how I was doing, my initial response was to downplay events in my life, default to something negative, or just straight up complain. Where was all the good stuff?!?! I know it happened, but for some reason I was omitting it from the story of my daily life. When asked how my weekend was, I would instantly cite the multiple events and lack of sleep, but would fail to explain that “busy” consisted of celebrating the upcoming arrival of a best friend’s first baby, raising a beer (or 5) to another of my closest friends as they celebrated turning thirty, then capping off the weekend by spending Sunday morning being silly and having fun with another best friend’s kids, whom I love. None of those gems made it into my commentary.

They say timing is everything. I read a quote around the same time that I was having this epiphany that has stuck with me ever since: “What consumes your mind controls your life.” Say it with me now: “What consumes your mind controls your life.”

During my venture down “woe-is-me” lane last year, the thoughts that cluttered my mind were, “I can’t,” “I’m stuck,” “I shouldn’t,” “why is this happening,” “I could never,” and so on and so forth. No wonder I wasn’t waking up ready to take on the world and feeling completely in love with my life! If we consistently use mediocre and borderline depressing language to describe our lives, then guess what? That’s exactly what you’re going to end up with: a mediocre and slightly depressing life.

When people ask you how your weekend was, don’t be afraid to tell them that it was actually pretty freaking amazing. That you’re excited to meet your best friend’s first baby. That you celebrated a great friend’s 30th year on this crazy planet. And to top it off, you got some grass stains on your brand new white t-shirt because you were having so much fun rolling around on the front lawn with kids whom you love. When a coworker asks how your day is, skip the self-deprecating “I’m so busy” bullshit (because duh, it’s work … we’re all busy) and let them know that today has been a great day because you just had an extremely productive meeting and crossed three things off your to-do list. Challenge yourself to say anything – LITERALLY ANYTHING – other than “okay,” “fine,” or sarcastic renditions of “oh you know, just living the dream.”

Because the truth is we’re more than just “okay” or “fine”: We’re living on this giant rock spinning in the middle of nowhere, with millions of other people who each day open their two eyeballs, go out into the world, share experiences, explore new places, meet new people, and create memories that leave lasting impressions on their hearts. That, if you ask me, is PRETTY AWESOME.

I understand that every second of every day is not going to be filled with wonderful, amazing, stress-free experiences. In your life, there will be difficult moments, roadblocks that make you feel like throwing in the towel, arguments that leave you feeling like there is no point to even go on, and challenges that make you think it’s just not worth it. Through all of that, my advice is to always remember that what controls your thoughts controls your life. While you can count on those Negative Nancy moments to always make a guest appearance, please never let them outshine everything else you have to be grateful for. Let’s talk about our blessings more than we talk about our burdens.

Challenge yourself … just one response could change everything.

According to Nics…

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