I Don’t Have “Bad” Days Anymore (And Neither Should You)

A couple days ago, I was sitting at a computer in a hot classroom in South Korea, struggling to figure out how in blue blazes to teach English to kids who don’t understand the words coming out of my mouth.

Earlier that morning, I had taken the wrong bus and ended up being late for work. By my estimation, the day was going poorly. I felt a bit frustrated, in over my head.

Then, I caught myself and took a step back. I realized that by indulging such negative ideas and feelings, I was doing nothing but fueling my own stress. I’d allowed myself to become overly consumed by the minutia of my day to day life. I was sabotaging my own peace. 

I closed my eyes, took a couple deep breaths, and reminded myself of something: These problems that seem big right now are but tiny obstacles. Embrace them. You are capable.

It was incredible what a difference a bit of reflection and conscious breathing did for me in that situation.

Of course I was having a bit of trouble with lesson planning. I am not a teacher by trade (I’m not sure what I am by trade, but that’s another story), and I’ve never taught English, let alone to kids who don’t speak it.

I needed to remember this, give myself a break, and relax for a moment. All was well. Once I did this, the lesson planning went much more smoothly, in part thanks to many kind people on the Internet.

The Deaf - El Sordo by Francisco Tejeda Jaramillo. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

The Deaf – El Sordo by Francisco Tejeda Jaramillo. Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

Gaining Perspective on “Bad” Things That Happen

Like anyone, I become stressed, frustrated, and irritated. It’s unavoidable, and I don’t expect it’s something I’ll ever entirely overcome.

However, while these feelings are ordinary and to be expected at times, they become all-consuming if we aren’t careful. This seems even more true nowadays in our high-stress world of fast-paced lifestyles, endless to-do lists, and infinite flashing lights vying for our attention.

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Most of us allow the unexpected hiccups in our lives to derail our sense of calm for days or weeks at a time. We wallow and wish we didn’t have such awful luck, instead of stopping to consider that it is our perspective, not our circumstances, that needs to change.

If you take a Buddhist’s view on the matter, as I tend to do, you can train yourself to understand that our expectations lead to our suffering. 

If we constantly expect that things will go in a particular way, we will be forever disappointed and angry when they do not. Because we’re resisting life.

Turn this idea around a bit, and you produce a simple axiom: embrace whatever is happening to you.

The sooner you accept whatever is occurring, the sooner everything is okay — the sooner you’re at peace with the world and can go about your day from a place of enjoyment and appreciation, rather than resistance and bitterness.

Also, keep in mind that when we expect things to be one way, we place the label “bad” on anything that does not go according to plan. This labeling habit in itself is powerfully counterproductive and seriously hinders our ability to be content with our lives.

How Can We Possibly Embrace Everything?

As I said, I am no guru, and I trip up. I forget to embrace my circumstances sometimes, but I have improved dramatically, simply by trying. 

So, the first simple step you can take is:

1. Try to be More Aware

Unless you really want to improve your day-to-day life, things will remain the same. However, if you actively attempt to understand that your thoughts about what is happening to you are more important than what is actually happening, you’ll soon be on your way to a place of non-resistance. In a large and real sense, we allow ourselves to feel and think whatever we are feeling and thinking.

2. Recognize Your Inner Monologue

We’re all talking to ourselves in our heads all day. If we can become conscious of how we’re thinking and reacting to given situations and people, we can learn to pause and reflect more often on how our thoughts are helping or hurting us. This is a crucial aspect of awareness. If you hear yourself complaining internally or becoming angry with someone, it’s time to stop and reconsider.

3. Stop Labeling Things as “Bad”

As I alluded to, the mere mental action of categorizing everything that happens to us within a good-or-bad dichotomy leads to much of our suffering. Some people would go as far as to say that “good” and “bad” things don’t exist, that it’s all in the label. If you’re not prepared to go to that extent, at least try to think of it this way: Most things that happen are just things that happen. They are simply moments to be experienced, and most any moment has the potential to be peaceful, if perceived correctly.

Just try to develop the habit of pausing to ask, “Is this actually a big deal?” If it isn’t a nationwide famine, plague, war, or genocide, chances are it’s something minor.

4. Breathe

I wrote a full-length article on the power of conscious breathing. To be brief, simply closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and focusing deliberately on your breathing can make aeons of difference in your ability to manage stress. Breathe deeply and let the weight slide off. All is well.

5. Be Present

Being present, or being mindful, is related to conscious breathing and basically means living in the felt experience of the present moment. It means focusing on the sights, sounds, and bodily sensations of this second and being here, now. Read my article on mindfulness for more.

6. Compassion

We’re often quick to condemn others and project our own insecurities onto them. Rarely do we stop and realize that everyone is living a life as complex, messy, and challenging as our own. We don’t know what the people we meet have seen or been through. If we can come to understand this, we can begin to see that we’re all in this life together, doing our best to meet its challenges.

When we care only for ourselves, everything that happens is an opportunity for self-pity. Conversely, when we empathize and cultivate compassion, we can think first of how others feel and are affected. This effectively denies us the chance to worry and mope about ourselves. It was Plato that said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

7. Appreciate

A lack of gratitude is frequently the culprit when we find ourselves feeling down or irritated by something that is happening. If you’re able to read this, consider yourself more fortunate than the 3 billion people worldwide who cannot read. If you woke up today with more health than illness, you are luckier than the one million people who will not survive the week. Take nothing for granted. So many of our “problems” are inconsequential.

8. Just Stop Complaining

The words we speak in our daily lives have immeasurable power. When we say something aloud, we reinforce the idea in our minds several times over. When we complain constantly, we begin to convince ourselves that we are victims and that the universe hates us. On the other hand, when we talk about ideas and tell stories and make jokes with people we love, life seems to expand and invite us to lap up its sweet nectar. The choice is yours.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I’ve worked for a while now on honing the type of awareness I’m talking about, and I’m able to catch myself fairly quickly when I begin to sulk and complain internally about a situation.

Then, I’m usually able to take a step back, reassess the source of my discontent, and realize that my troubles have almost always been caused by excessive nitpicking, a lack of appreciation, or a lack of compassion.

Practice is paramount. It’s true that only those who want very deeply to change their ways are able to do so. But, what a blessing it is to know that if you desire to change the way you see the world, you really can do it. 

Having done this for some time now, I can say that each night when I reflect on my day, I’m always able to see the sum of what happened to me as “neutral” at worst and “positive” at best. Even if things actually kind of “sucked”. I wish the same for you.

“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo Credit: D. Sharon Pruitt

About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is the Creator of Refine The Mind. He loves you. In 2013, he moved to South Korea to teach English, embarking on a nomadic journey that would lead him to 29 countries. In the process he became a writer, entrepreneur, facilitator, autodidact, and rapper, reaching millions of people with his words and ideas. He’s deeply curious about how reality works, how to live well, and how to liberate all sentient creatures in existence. Befriend him and/or get his free eBook on how to exit the world of traditional work and live a radically free life. Amor fati, humans.

  • Constantin Constantin Daniel G Oct 1, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Another life-changing post by Jordan Bates.When the lessons or advice you post are from your own personal experience, the bond from you, our “teacher” and us, the pupils, becomes even stronger and makes us more receptive (at least in my case)Thank you sir!

    • Jordan Bates Oct 1, 2013, 10:15 pm


      Wow, life-changing! That’s quite a compliment. Thank you for the feedback — it’s good to know that you prefer it when I speak from personal experience. However, realize that many of my ideas about my experience have come from reading and thinking about the work of others!

      Also, I am no teacher, sir! I am forever a pupil as well and simply enjoy posting my thoughts and reflections. If others benefit from them, that’s great. Please, think of me as a friend. 🙂

      • Constantin Constantin Daniel G Oct 2, 2013, 2:26 pm

        Hello Jordan! Well, in that case, if you say you are pupil, I feel the need to say that you’re a very good one who knows how to properly share his knowledge with his friends all over the world, wich are also in-developing pupils ready to test these teachings and spread them among others. I can surely stand up for my compliment as a very good and fair one because the words in this post, like in others, ignited the neverending fire of knowledge in me. Maybe you did not intended to have such a big impact but… it did for me.. it did. I feel so blessed to come across this site and you, my dear friend. The first post I ever read on this site was the one with Alan Watts’s career advice (if money was no object) which created a domino effect making made me read the other posts, and so on with other sites and some books (you got the idea 🙂 ) It was a big change in my life to see that others think and respond to the questions that I asked myself. I know I am young, and I have so much more to discover in this beautiful life, but the fact that I discoverd these things at such young age, makes me hope that my future will be a bright and happy one. I want to show others the side of life they did not see and I’m really trying to do so. Just the fact that I can say Thank YOU, Jordan Bates!, make me so happy I can’t describe in words.So here it goes: “Multumesc, Jordan Bates!” (that’s thank you in romanian) :).

        • Jordan Bates Oct 2, 2013, 9:39 pm

          Well Daniel, I’m truly humbled and appreciative of your gratitude and your kind words. The fact that I was able to be the catalyst for a “domino effect”, as you put it, of learning and growth in your life is amazing to me. Please do try to spread the brightness and the good vibes in your life in whatever way is best-suited to you. My goal is always to create a ripple effect.

          I’m sure your future will be bright and happy, Daniel. Never assume there won’t be dark periods because there will be — that’s part of life — but I truly hope you’ll learn to see them as a natural and important part of experiencing all that life throws at us. I once wrote in my sophomore year of college that “the rusty times in life make us appreciate the gold,” and I still believe that today.

          In addition to being happy, strive to be an inspiration to other people and a positive addition to the world. Try to make a difference. I really think this is the best way we can spend our lives. It doesn’t have to be something huge. We change the world every day, for better or worse, with our actions and decisions.

          You’re very, very welcome, Daniel. Thank you again for being a friend to me and for your warm comments on the site. Take care and best wishes as always.

          Your Friend,

          P.S. I loved the “thanks” in Romanian. That was cool. 🙂

  • Dana Jan 23, 2014, 10:34 pm

    This really helped me calm down and breathe. Thank you!

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