Finding opportunities out of obligations is about more than the old optimist’s creed of “making lemonade from lemons.” It’s about efficiency. It’s about attitude. It’s about shaping your reality.
Once my dad was told to attend a dinner event 3 hours away to represent the company, accept an award, and shake hands with the governor for a 5 minute photo-op. My dad’s initial reaction was annoyance – this disrupts my work day and takes me away from home, there’s so many other things that need to be done, why me, and so on. Then he realized that he was doing this anyways – why not make it an opportunity? He decided that he’d use those 5 minutes with the governor to draw his attention to a project that wasn’t getting attention. There’s evidence that those 5 minutes actually contributed to that project’s approval. He created value out of what could have been a waste of time.
The chorus I sing with is requiring its members to do 9 holiday concerts this year instead of 7. Like many, my initial reaction was a mixture of panic and disappointment – especially since the news was communicated without fanfare, gratitude, or acknowledgement of the change. How could they do this to us? How much more will this cost our family to ‘volunteer’? And so on. Then I realized that the holiday concerts have really changed from years ago, when they were perceived by many as a burden, an obligation, a mandatory exercise with a substitute conductor and a high temptation to mail it in. The new approach is to treat each concert like a music-making experience, and the rehearsals and pedagogy associated with them are basically a voice lesson for me every time. I’ll take two more cheap voice lessons and performances this December, especially given that this may be my last season if I’m not in the chorus after next spring’s re-audition!
Life is more enjoyable when you reframe obligations as opportunities.