How to Keep the Wind in Your Sails

The following is a guest post by Rosemary O’Neill is Co-Founder/President of Social Strata, and an aspiring Time Management Ninja.  For the last 14 years, she has been evangelizing the social conversation.  You can find her online via Twitter (@rhogroupee) and as a regular contributor to Liz Strauss’ Successful and Outstanding Blog

Have you ever bounced out of bed, humming a happy tune, only to be greeted by Debbie Downer at the office?  Have you ever had a fantastic idea in the shower, then made the mistake of sharing it with someone else who pooh-poohed it?

When this happens, you have two choices: 1) deflate, retreat, and second-guess yourself for the rest of the day, or 2) withdraw from the battlefield, use the negative energy as fuel, and come back with both guns blazing.

There are three major techniques that will help you become the person who chooses the second option most of the time: avoidance, distraction, and refocus.


If you know someone who always wants to pour cold water on you, avoid them.  Or if they’re a member of your family, avoid them when you’re feeling vulnerable.  If there are situations in which a group tends to have a feeding frenzy of negativity (visualize the divorced women’s group on Jerry Maguire), then don’t participate.  Build up a group around you who can offer you constructive ideas, support, and positive energy.

When your avoidance technique fails, and you are subjected to Danny Downer, consider why they might be reacting that way. If you can think about what is affecting their perception, it takes you out of yourself.  Another trick is to picture yourself having the conversation very far away, giving mental distance. This allows you to not take it personally.


Have you ever seen your cat suddenly race off as if something super important is happening in the next room?  This is another great way to deal with The Deflater.  Get yourself away from the situation, find some quiet, and go to your happy place mentally.  It could be a field of flowers, a baseball game on a sunny afternoon, or a perfect day at the beach.

Physical activity is a terrific way to distract yourself from a negative encounter.  Take 10-15 minutes and exercise, clean off your desk, or do laundry.  The more physical, the better.  Let those endorphins renew your positive outlook.

Another way to distract is to try flipping the script on the negative person.  Start asking them questions about something they like, and getting them de-funked.  Moving away from the original subject, and helping someone else can pull both of you out of depressive thinking.


So you got away from the negative energy. Now it’s time to regain that exuberance you started the day with.  Try writing down what you were thinking originally, journal-style.  Put your mind back to the place you were—what were you creating, what song were you humming, what great idea did you have?  The act of putting it on paper will start to get you back to that serendipity.

Does music motivate you?  I have a “re-motivation” playlist that I refer to when I need to be recharged.  Compile your own inspirational music list, and blare it through the headphones when you’ve been shot down.  Think Queen’s “We are the Champions” or the theme from Rocky.

And here’s something really weird to make you productive again.  Go to the mirror, and smile (with crinkle eyes) or make a crazy face for 5 full minutes.  Set a timer if you need to.  It’s almost physically impossible to be depressed after smiling at yourself like a fool for 5 minutes.  Try it, I dare you.

Finally, this is the golden secret of re-motivation.  Do something nice (and unexpected) for someone else.  Give a sincere compliment, carry someone’s groceries in, do a task they hate to do.  It works like a charm.

Now get out there and don’t let anyone stop you.

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8 thoughts on “How to Keep the Wind in Your Sails

  1. Rosemary, great post! My favorite approach–when (and only when) I can do it in a non-snarky way, is to flip the script, as you say.
    When I’m an excited about an idea that gets a negative reaction, if I reflexively go into an emotional tailspin, that means I’m taking it personally–when in reality, the negative comment is usually about the other person, who is probably trying to get an upper hand.
    The rational thing to do (if only I were always so rational!) is to use the negative comment as a constructive challenge (even if it wasn’t meant that way)–start troubleshooting the idea early.

  2. Great post!
    I’m a positive person and an optimist. Even if I feel sad for a moment, I’m my original self very soon 🙂
    One of the ways that also works is the physical activity that you mentioned. It’s a great way to feel good again.