I was once late to catch a plane to London. The flight had already closed, but there was a delay, so the counter staff relented. I dashed through the various checks, along the travelator, panting, and came to a halt at the end of a long queue of passengers.
After a few minutes I heard an American businessman complain about having to wait. ‘Ah well,’ grinned his companion, looking totally relaxed, ‘It sure beats being an ant in a sand hill.’ It sure beats missing your flight too. It’s all a matter of perspective.
That kind of positive thinking is a key to resilience and a tool we can sharpen...
Reframing using helpful comparisons
We can focus on 'reframing' our initial reaction to an event to come up with a more healthy way of looking at it. It sounds easy, but can be very challenging if it's a particularly distressing event.
Comparisons can be helpful. If you are distressed because your team lost an important game, try comparing your success with those teams that didn’t even make the semi-finals. If your business is worrying you, try comparing yourself with someone who is bankrupt.
Even when the situation seems desperate, some people manage to find a useful comparison that makes them feel better. Researchers recall an AIDS patient who made a list of diseases he would rather not have than AIDS and said, ‘You’ve got to get some perspective on this, and where you are in the Great Nasty Diseases List’.[i]
[i] Shelley E. Taylor & Marci Lobel, ‘Social comparison activity under threat; downward evaluation and upward contacts’, Psychological Review, vol. 96, pp 569-75