The Things That Carry Us

Guest post by Joël McLean @jprofNB

I consider myself to be a very fortunate person. I have a loving family, a great job, and I am in good health (as far as I know). I would say that the majority of my days are very good ones, and I go to sleep feeling like I have worked hard and made some kind of positive difference. But like everyone else, I have some bad days as well. Days in which I feel overwhelmed, unproductive, unmotivated, or discouraged. And sometimes, I get a few (or more) of them back to back.

It’s easy to let ourselves get wrapped up by those bad days. Heck, there are times that it feels good to be bad (negative). However, that gets us short-lived satisfaction, and it doesn’t usually lead to improving the situation. Walking around with a dark cloud above your head isn’t good for anyone. So what can we do about it ?

Many years back I adopted a strategy that I still use to this day to help me get through those tough days. It all started during the years of camping with the family on weekends. I call this strategy “The Things That Carry Us“. I hope that it can serve you as well.


The key to the success of my strategy is creating anticipation. This takes me back about 12 years ago when my family and I had a camper trailer set up on a seasonal site, and we would go camping (or was it glamping?) during weekends and the summer months. The camping season would usually run between the long weekend of May and Thanksgiving in October. We created a lot of memories and met some great people.

Now for those of you that do go camping or have a cottage for your weekend getaways know exactly where I am going with this: the priceless feeling of anticipation that when Friday arrives, it will be time to pack up the car and head out to our little piece of paradise.

I can still remember the feeling of looking forward to it. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was, I found myself feeling excited just by knowing that in a few short days, we would be returning to the trailer to relax, have some family time, and enjoy the company of some good friends by the fire.

So that is what I trained myself to focus on.

Whenever a bad day would show up, or if a storm cloud started brewing over my head, I would force my thoughts towards heading out to camp on Friday. Sometimes I would even talk to myself, going over what we needed to pack or pick up at the store before leaving.

And you know what ? It worked.

I was able to change my mindset by focussing on the anticipation of what was to come. So I set out to use this strategy whenever I got into a funk. The anticipation gave me the wind I needed in my sails. It improved my mood and helped me turn around most bad days. When I think about it, it’s unbelievable how taking control of our thoughts can have such a profound impact on EVERYTHING. Now obviously my next pressing question was: “What the heck are you going to do when it’s not camping season (November to May)?

The answer: create my own anticipation.

Create Your Anticipation

When creating your anticipation, it’s crucial to concentrate on the important things. So that is what I set out to do: create anticipation within 3 categories: Family, Health, and Passion.

Family Anticipation

Planning family activities is a great way to create anticipation. It can be in the form of a weekly activity (going to see a movie, games night, going out to dinner) or even a family trip to a sunny destination. It can also be a weekly date night with your partner. Whatever form the activity might take, I always look forward to it, and have on many occasions eradicated my negative thinking with the anticipation that I felt knowing that it was coming. This for me is a win-win situation: it’s great for me, and great for the family as well!

Health Anticipation

Going to the gym is a very important morning routine for me. There are way too many benefits to list them all here in this blog post. The type of work that I do takes pretty much 100% brain power, and 0% physical power. So not only does going to the gym help me stay in good physical shape, it also helps to give the start of each day a boost of nitro. But just as important, it helps to sharpen my mind. Here is a great article about the positive effects of exercise on mental health. Bottom line, it just makes me feel better overall. So I totally look forward to my morning workouts, which gives me another category of anticipation to dip into whenever I have a bad day. In this category, I get 2 motivators for the price of 1: endorphins + the feeling of anticipation!

Passion Anticipation

I truly believe that everyone can find a passion. Some people have tapped into it, while others have yet to discover it. If you haven’t discovered it yet, don’t stop searching and trying new things out.

My passion resides in finding ways to add value to others. That is one of the reasons why I am writing this blog post. I really hope you are finding value in reading it! In particular, I love working with other leaders to help them sharpen their skills and become even better people and leaders today compared to yesterday. How do I go about it? I am the host of a leadership podcast, I blog, I offer Mastermind Groups, and other various professional development and growth opportunities. I also have a full time job as Director of School Efficacy in my board.

You might say that that is a lot of extra work, but for me, it actually feels like play. I love recording podcasts with great guests, writing blog posts and growing with other leaders via the Mastermind format or workshops. In other words, I eat, sleep and drink leadership.

Whenever I have a podcast recording scheduled, or a workshop to deliver, or even creating content for other leaders, I totally look forward to it. My anticipation skyrockets and I get excited just thinking about it. This gives me yet another category of anticipation to help me get through tough days.

It is so very important to discover what you are passionate about. And when you do find it, create activities to help you build on those passions. I know some people that their passion is reading, and the anticipation of cuddling up with a good book with a hot cup of coffee is all they need to get back on the positive path.

Create YOUR Anticipation

I sincerely hope that this post will inspire you to create your anticipation.

My challenge for you today: set out to discover what you are passionate about, and build activities around those passions. And whenever you have a bad day, bring your thoughts back to the anticipation of those activities, because these become the things that carry us.

Thanks to Joël for another great guest post!

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