“I had a bad day”
You will probably hear the phrase ‘I’m having a bad day’ about once a week. Sighed by a co-worker, a partner or overheard at the supermarket. Maybe you were the one typing it out to a friend over WhatsApp (if you were feeling especially needy, on a group message).
Yes, I made that statistic up.
While I didn’t have a particularly bad day – actually the bearer of some good news – I have been guilty of answering the question ‘how was your day?’ with one-word answers such as ‘meh’ or ‘uneventful’ one too many times of late. A cliché case of November blues?
For this reason, I wanted to pick apart and dwell on this dreary complaint and catch myself the next time I moan or feel sorry for myself.
The important component of the expression ‘I am having a bad day’ is the pronoun ‘I’.
The world isn’t collectively experiencing a poor run of form or a ‘blip’. Other people will be having even worse bad days but a lot of people will be having great, even their very best days. The judgement is entirely personal and determined by perspective.
You overslept, skipped breakfast and missed your bus.
You arrived late to a meeting to realise you had forgotten your notes.
The lady in the cafeteria sold the last lunchtime jacket potato to the person in front of you in the queue.
You sent a critical email by mistake to the very person you were criticising.
The big deal you had been working on for weeks fell through.
Your best friend at work handed in their notice.
All things considered, that’s a pretty bad day. But the thing is it isn’t inherently so. None of these events are negative until you perceive them to be so. You could see a silver-lining and opportunity in any one of these things if you were so inclined:
Oversleeping today might make you more punctual next week – you are on time for a date that starts a relationship with legs.
Improvising in a meeting could make your presentation all the more impressive.
Being forced to choose something else for a change might lead to a new go-to lunchtime favourite.
Maybe the person you were criticising really needed to hear it.
Perhaps that big deal would have caused you a lot of stress and there’s another one around the corner that you now have time to attend to.
What if your work friend goes on to be much happier and their replacement becomes a new friend too.
What I am caricaturing is the ancient philosophy of stoicism. The idea that things are neither inherently good or bad but rather what we perceive them to be.
More than a wish-washy mantra, acknowledging this is to rid of your vocabulary of so-called ‘bad days’. Or at the very least, save the expression for experiences that truly deserve the label. Really shit days.
When you find yourself in a rut or overwhelmed, remember this:
Today will be won or lost in your head.
If you liked this post, you might also like The Compounding Effect of the Mini Win. Failing that, you might enjoy this old-school late noughties classic: