How Would You React to These Scenarios?

workoutWorkout Objective:   Build an empowered mindset by looking at difficult situations with a grateful perspective.
Prerequisite: None
Recommended Frequency: Once
Workout steps:

  • Read each of the three scenarios below and see which reaction more closely matches how you would react.
  • Add your comments and reactions below.


There is a wise Chinese saying – 知足常乐 – which literally means, “knowing what enough is leads to frequent joy.”  As I just celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, I thought of this phrase often and what it means to me:

  • Always look at life with a lens of “glass half full” instead of “half empty.”
  • Always be thankful for what I have already.
  • Aspire for more, but don’t expect it nor tie my happiness to achieving it.
  • Appreciate the time I have now – be present.

This concept is so simple to understand, but it is much harder to implement in practice, at least for me. American culture celebrates the opposite: the overachiever mentality of wanting more – more money, higher status, a vacation home, a better car – yet this ideal never satisfies. It makes us approach life and work with an endless desire for more.

Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate what I mean.  Imagine the following three scenarios and two possible reactions to each.  Which one is your likely reaction?

Scenario 1:  Your parents gave you a new Acura as a graduation present.

  • Reaction A – I am the luckiest person in the world.  Acura is such a great car, and my parents are so generous.  When I make more money, I want to be able to take care of my parents.
  • Reaction B – I can’t believe I just got an Acura.  I know my parents have more money than that.  Some of my friends got BMWs – they are so lucky.  I guess I will have to deal with an Acura. (Note: I actually knew someone who was like Person B in this exact scenario.)

Scenario 2: You were unexpectedly laid off

  • Reaction A – Wow, that hurts.  I just have to hustle now and find anything to get by while I try to find the next big thing.  This is my chance to regroup, and an opportunity to look at my career path in general.  Its sucks, but it happens.  No point in blaming myself or others.  I need to focus on the future and on building skills that are more and more marketable.
  • Reaction B – I can’t believe it.  How dare they lay me off.  I had good reviews, too!  I need to find out exactly what happened.  This is also so embarrassing — what am I going to tell my friends?  My next job, I had better find something that pays even better to make up for this unexpected set back.

Scenario 3: You had a meeting with an abrasive co-worker, Jane (this happened to me a few months ago)

  • Reaction A – That was uncomfortable.  I wonder what happened?  I didn’t expect Jane to react that way.  I should figure out how I contributed to the situation, and talk to her when we are both calm.  I’ll give her benefit of the doubt — everyone has their moments, including me.  There’s no need to find fault.  I’ll just figure out how to avoid that in the future, as she is an important partner to work well with.
  • Reaction B – I can’t believe how Jane behaved.  She is so abrasive.  She totally derailed the meeting!  We weren’t even supposed to be talking about that topic.  She has such a bad temper, and I still have to work with her.   Ugh!  I hope she realizes how badly she communicated and changes.
Life happens, with its ups and downs. Those of us who can choose to interpret what happened in a motivating and productive way, like A in each scenario, can also be happier. This is easier said than done. I guess part of the reason for writing this workout is to remind myself of what’s more important and keep practicing. Best wishes to you in finding happiness in life while striving for career success.
Your comments: Which reaction above do you identify with?  Do you agree with the principle of ““knowing what enough is leads to frequent joy?”  Share your comments and questions below and let’s have a discussion.
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2 thoughts on “How Would You React to These Scenarios?”

  1. Hi Lei,

    For Scenario 1, I would go with the first reaction. They spent the money to get me a *new* car? Of course I’m going to be thankful! The make shouldn’t matter there. Now, if it were a fairly old car, I would be somewhat disquieted, but I would try to maintain a grateful attitude.

    For Scenario 2, my initial reaction would be somewhat akin to B, but with a stronger emphasis on a sense of despair and frustration at myself. I’d shift gears to A within a day, though.

    For Scenario 3, my initial reaction would definitely be B. I could shift gears to A, but it would require a lot of effort on my part.

    These are great scenarios and questions to chew on. Way to challenge our thinking. 🙂

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