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3 Steps to Handle a “Bad” Situation or Experience

Life and business can be a roller coaster of “ups & downs,” “highs and lows,” and what we label “good” and “bad.”

Although I work on teaching my clients how to stop labeling things “good” and “bad”–therefore minimizing the suffering they create for themselves by doing so–this post is about how to better handle things you are currently labeling bad vs. being self-actualized enough to eliminate the perception of something as “bad” in the first place. 

There are 3 questions to ask yourself that will help you gain a different perspective on the situation and shift your response to it (lessening the negative emotion and improving the decisions you make about what actions you take to respond to it), thereby better assuring a positive outcome. 

It’s not the circumstance that makes the man; it reveals him to himself.”
— James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

3 questions to ask yourself to shift your response to a “bad” situation

1. What is “bad” about this situation/event? 

What exactly makes it “bad” in your eyes? How are you seeing the circumstances of the event? What sort of pain are you creating in the moment (physical, emotional)? What future “consequences” are you anticipating that you want to avoid? Get really clear about what you are thinking and imagining.

“There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” — Shakespeare, Hamlet

2. What could be worse about this? (“At least…) 

Gain perspective over the situation. Look at it from different angles/viewpoints. How might it not be as bad as an alternative situation or in comparison to others in a similar situation? Play the “at least” game–xxx happened, but at least…(something worse didn’t/what is still salvageable or okay). E.g., you get a flat on the side of the road–but at least I have a spare and know how to change it; it’s not raining; it could be a dark, deserted road; I could be without a cell phone to call for help; I didn’t spin out and get into an accident when it blew; etc.)
There are two ways to change a situation–change the situation or change
yourself to meet it. 
One you have total control over; the other you may not.


3. What could be “good” about this? 

Look at it from the other end of the spectrum. How can this lead to something better? What opportunity can you create from it? How can you turn this into an advantage? What lesson does it hold to help you to do better in the future? What skill/ability/character trait can you gain from it to grow yourself as a person? What new “meaning” or interpretation or spin can you put on it to feel more positive or hopeful about it? 

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal
or greater benefit.”
— Napolean Hill, Think & Grow Rich

Allowing yourself to get really clear about the situation, seeing the “facts” not the “stories” or interpretations, looking at it from different perspectives, comparing it to a larger view of the world or others’ challenges to diminish its grand appearance of ultimate disaster, and distancing yourself from the initial & defensive emotional reaction to the situation will help to gain a new perspective and see things through a “softer” filter. This will allow you to slow down your impulsive reactionary response, and assess the situation to make choices about your response and be likely to create a better outcome in the end.

It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you choose to DO with what happens that makes all the
difference in which path you take from that point forward and the future you create.

1. Ask yourself the 3 questions and write down your answers
2. If you’re having a challenge coming up with answers to Q 2 or 3, ask for help from others to give you their responses to the questions
3. Reflect on the answers and the “truth” of them, free from the distortions you previously created

Have something to say about this topic/post? How have you used one of these “turnarounds” to better handle a seemingly “negative” experience? Please share your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the page.

Want to work with me individually? Schedule a private complimentary Business Strategy Session with me. We’ll identify what practical and mindset techniques can best help you generate–and keep–more money in your business and your life! 


  1. I love the idea of your Website name. Love it.

  2. Artimease Jackson says:

    Recently I viewed a business situation as bad, and was somewhat disappointed by the outcome. A potential client did not call me back by the date he said he would. I was reminded that there is good in every situation because I put in the work, provided them with the proposal/assessment and made the follow-up call. He didn’t say “NO” therefore there is still an opportunity to work with him.

    • Lisa Smith says:

      That’s right, Artimease. That would qualify as the response to the second question–but at least it’s not a definite “no” for now. Follow-up is key. “The fortune is in the follow-up.” Most people don’t follow up enough, mostly for fear of seeming “pushy” or desperate.
      Remember that people have other things going on in their lives besides the piece they’re involved with you on. We’re all prioritizing (unconsciously as well as consciously). Most people actually APPRECIATE your follow up. I can recall numerous times someone told me “I’m so glad you called–I’ve been meaning to get back with you and just kept getting side tracked” or “I’m so glad you didn’t give up on reaching out to me; I really do want to work with you but it wasn’t the right time. Now I’m ready.”
      Ask the 3 questions and you’ll always be able to create a “turnaround.”

  3. Thank you for outlining these steps so clearly! This is a great way to handle disappointment or challenge in my business!

    I’ve had things happen that originally disappoint, but later I discover that there’s a reason they didn’t work out. Either something better was behind it or it wasn’t as awesome as it originally looked.

    • Lisa Smith says:

      Hindsight can be very revealing. The challenge is remembering these lessons in the moment the “bad” thing happens so we can shift out of blame/anger/resistance quickly.

  4. Great article. I was just reading something that goes hand in hand with this topic… in Inc. magazine. Research shows that STRESS (like entrepreneurial stress) is only BAD when you view it as bad. =) Great work!

  5. Jennifer Zach says:

    Great questions! Especially like the third paragraph. Good points about perspective. We can’t change what we can’t see.

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