The Funny Thing About Suffering

Nobody throws the covers off their bed in the morning, saunters into the bathroom, looks into the mirror and says “Self, today I’m going to take you waaay too seriously.”

But it’s easy to lose your perspective and slip into Serious Adult Mode when you find yourself staring down the barrel of a wildly unpredictable economy, financial slumps, health problems, and other maladies of modern life.  You know you’re in Serious Adult Mode when you catch yourself wearing an expression of stone-faced intensity like it’s a merit badge for the achievement of adulthood.

According to a recent study  by psychologists at the University of Zurich, one of the simplest and most effective ways to reclaim a healthier perspective (and maybe even generate more innovative solutions while also earning a bigger bonus) is to count the funny things that happen during your day.

Counting funny things doesn’t change what happens to you.  But it does change how you interpret what happens to you.

A friend of mine was paralyzed from the waist down while still in the prime of his life.  One of the many side effects of his paralysis is that he sometimes loses control of his bowels.  If something like this happens to you while you’re in Serious Adult Mode, you’ll mostly likely curse the heavens, tear your robe, and plummet face-first onto the proverbial ash heap.

But if you’re in Counting Funny Things Mode, you’ll respond like my friend does. You’ll quip to yourself “sh^t happens.”  Then you’ll enjoy a good chuckle at your clever double entendre; clean yourself up; and move on with your day.

That’s one of the coolest things about being human.  You and I get to choose how we tell ourselves the story of what happens to us.  Every traffic jam, technology glitch, health problem, unexpected hospital bill, lousy interview, or failed sales call can either cue the violin music in your tragedy, or it can set up the next joke in your comedy.  Which storyline will you develop today?

Daniel Pink