Making Circumstances Good


Florna, a 50-year-old woman, was a bathroom cleaning specialist. (I’m actually not sure what her title was, but that’s what she was doing when I met her, so that’s what I’ll call her.)

Florna was engaged in her work at an Atlanta airport bathroom. Now, let’s be honest here. This is NOT the job her momma wanted her to grow up to have. THIS job was an excuse to be bumming.

But Florna was not bumming. She was humming.

Florna was a hummer. You know. Like a bumblebee-type hummer. I found that entertaining as I used the facilities while she cleaned. Frankly, it made me smile. Then, when I came out of the stall, she broke into song. Okay. I’ll admit it. I joined in. That was Florna’s game—to make people happy.

Florna didn’t stop there. She shuffled toward me as she sang, gesturing for me to sing along. Why not?  As I washed my hands, she leapt to reach for my paper towel while she gyrated s to “Start spreadin’ the news…I’m leaving today…”

That’s right. A woman who worked at the airport, cleaning toilets, was singing “New York, New York” to me as I came out of the stall. And I wasn’t special. THIS, I could see, is what Florna does. 

THIS is a human who puts meaning in her work. This girlfriend is spreading the joy as she’s mopping the grunge.

Contrast Florna with the millions of people who spend a good chunk of their day complaining:  “Nobody tells me what to do.” “Nobody appreciates me.” “Jeffrey got a bigger raise and he doesn’t even know how to do mail campaigns.”

The more they complain, the more they need to look for evidence why the world is treating them unfairly.

Now they have an excuse for not giving their all. They need to find more complaints to justify their previous complaints. That’s how it works for complainers. If they stopped complaining, they’d have to admit that THEY had the problem in making up their previous complaints.

So, the question is yours. Do you choose joy or not?

Try this:

Make a list of all the things you can be grateful for about your job. (My boss isn’t a screamer. I get a paycheck every two weeks. I hardly ever have to work on a weekend. I get opportunities to learn. My teammates tell me when I’m a doofus…so I’m being coached to grow as a person.) Make the list long. Just decide to keep writing for at least five minutes…keep writing…

Make a list of your five biggest complaints.

For each complaint, reframe it. For example, “My boss micromanages me.” can be reframed to “My boss cares enough about me and about keeping me out of trouble to step into my work when I need help.”

Stay in a state of gratitude and see if suddenly the world doesn’t miraculously seem to be filled with nicer people.

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