I’ve been playing with a “How can I make something out of nothing?” inner dialogue for the past couple of months; diligently training myself to use it every time life would throw a curveball until it evolved into an automatic response or reflex. Hmm, just like the muscle reflex experienced by a basketball player who practices the same shot, day after day, until she and the shot become “one”.
Here’s how it started
A friend casually mentioned that he always strives to turn a logistically bad situation into a good one. How does he do this? By challenging himself to quickly turn the situation into something productive. For example, a three-hour travel delay with kids? No problem; instead of getting frustrated, he simply says to himself “How can I make something out of nothing?”, and then he googles a local educational attraction or the like.
Upon hearing this idea, I wondered if I could use “How can I make something out of nothing?” in my work life to circumvent disappointment, frustration, and growls (grrr). Basically, I figured that if this inner dialogue could be useful for logistics, it might also work for the accompanying feelings (you know the ones; the emotions that linger and curtail a perfectly good day).
For example, last week I had travel re-scheduled after a re-schedule; so before I let frustration bubble up, I said to myself: “How can I make something out of nothing?”. Within seconds, a new plan unfolded in my mind and I felt relieved and energized.
In fact, since implementing my new inner dialog a couple of months ago, I now sashay through my day with more ease and flow. I even embrace the challenge of figuring out how to flip things around quickly (and pat myself on the back when I come up with a solution!).
4 to 5 Seconds to Act
I noticed that when a curveball swings your way, there is a short window (about 4 to 5 seconds) to grab hold of yourself and ask “How can I make something out of nothing?” before an alternative inner dialogue claims the space. The trick is to get a positive inner dialogue in place before another one sinks in (you know, the ones that often lead to negative, and perhaps judgemental feelings).
Did it take much time and energy to adopt this new pattern? Well, yes and no. Initially, my main hurdle was remembering to say the words “How can I make something out of nothing?”. It felt awkward. After I started getting tangible results, the awkwardness subsided and I became curious. That’s when I started having fun with it!
Today, after a couple of months of consistent practice, I’m like the basketball player I mentioned earlier, “How can I make something out of nothing?” is like a muscle reflex. I’m now part of it and its part of me.
Here are four tips … give it a whirl!
- Observe your inner dialogue for a couple of days. What do you say to yourself when things don’t turn out the way you anticipated? How do you feel? How long does this feeling linger with you?
- Then, for a couple of days, observe when a curve ball comes your way, and replace your inner dialogue with “How can I make something out of nothing?”. How do you feel? How long does this feeling stay with you?
- As shared earlier, you have about 4 to 5 seconds to make “How can I make something out of nothing?” your inner dialogue of choice before another, perhaps less positive inner dialogue claims the space.
- After a while, notice if you start to embrace the challenge of “How can I make something out of nothing?” with a practical enthusiasm. (I did). Gradually, I started to look at hiccups in my day as opportunities because I knew I could easily shift gears and make “something out of nothing”. It is a good feeling!
If you try this exercise and get results, please let me know. Also, if you have an inner dialogue similar to “How can I make something out of nothing?”, I’d love to hear about it.
Enjoy the day!