Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

By Khalilah Starks

Happy Monday (or whatever day of the week you happen to be reading this :-))! One of the most challenging tasks for many is to find something positive in what feels like a negative experience. I’m still learning this art, but I’ve learned to see positive aspects in most things. Show me a negative experience and I’ll show you the opportunity. Job loss, a failed pitch, a poorly executed project – yes, there’s opportunity in all of it. It doesn’t feel so good when it happens. Especially, when it impacts your bank account. But, there’s always a silver lining. Shift your focus on the positive and you’ll find that silver lining quickly.

There’s great value in all experiences, including the ones that you perceive as negative. I use the word “perceive” because most of the situations that you’ve deemed negative are only negative because you’re choosing to view them that way. When something happens, you make a decision to either place that experience in a positive or negative mental folder based on your perspective. And, since you’re making that decision, you have the power to view your situation negatively or positively. Easier said than done. But, you do have the power. Of course, there are some things that happen in life that are so awful that it’s impossible to see anything positive about the situation. That’s life. In those instances, all that you can do is make peace with what has happened. Thankfully, most experiences that take place in your career are not in that category. You really do have the choice as to which folder you’re going to place your experience in – the positive folder or the negative folder.

If you’re dealing with a situation that feels negative right now, I challenge you to:

1. Ask yourself, “How did I contribute to this experience and what I can learn from this?” This is not to beat up on yourself, but to help you avoid similar experiences in the future. If a similar situation does happen to pop up, you’ll have a better grasp on how to quickly and successfully deal with that situation.

2. Find the Silver Lining. List as many positive things about the situation as you can. It may be difficult at first, but keep focusing on finding the positives. The silver lining may be that you learned something that will help you throughout the rest of your career. Perhaps, this loss has set you up for a greater gain in the future.

3. Ask yourself, “Is there something that I can do to change this situation or make it better right now?” Sometimes, situations are out of your control. Other times, the power is in you to change them. Approaching the situation from a positive mindset can provide you with solutions that you hadn’t considered when looking at the experience from a negative point of view.

4. Throw out that negative folder in your mind and create a new folder titled “Opportunity”; file all those experiences that you’re claiming to be negative in that folder. In due time, many of those negative experiences that you placed in your Opportunity folder will ultimately be transferred to your positive folder because what you gain is oftentimes better than what you lost! True story – I’ve lost two jobs due to corporate downsizing and restructuring. Each time, I landed a bigger and better opportunity. What felt like the most horrible experience was a setup for something truly awesome!

You have the power to see a situation how you want to see it. If you focus on shifting the perception of your experiences in a more positive direction, you’ll realize the value that can come from them. I’m not suggesting that you’ll ever fall in love with the experiences that you’ve placed in your Opportunity folder. That’s not realistic. But recognize that every experience, especially the ones that you perceive as negative, brings the opportunity for growth or something better.