Last November, I got stuck in the mountains with no cell service, 12 miles away from civilization, and I was by myself. The story is crazy, but it got me thinking about staying positive even when everything else around you seems to be going wrong. I feel like this is kind of an underlying theme for everything that I do and put out there. However, that situation in the mountains seriously tested my ability to stay positive. I want to tell you that story, and then I want to talk about how I developed this ability to stay positive when everything else around me seems to be going wrong. That ability has made everything else in my life a little bit easier and probably turn out a little bit better. It initially didn’t feel natural for me to want to be positive, it felt awkward and cheesy. So I want to give you some practical tips on how you go about staying positive.
Getting Stuck in the Mountains
I have this weird part of my personality where I always say I’m an extroverted introvert because I love talking to people and being around people, but I recharge by being alone. When things seem to be going wrong in my personal life, I tend to disappear into the mountains. It’s not always good because I kind of shut everybody out. That’s actually something I’ve been working on with a therapist for a while now to try to figure out why I shut down when things get hard. That’s a whole other blog post, but it’s how this story starts. I like to go to the mountains to clear my head and get away, and that’s what I was doing last December.
I had had some things going on in my dating life, and I needed some time to myself. There’s something about being in the mountains in that crisp air at night, when you can see every single star because there’s no lights from the city — it’s beautiful. Some of the photos I took from that night looked like paintings, it was an unbelievably beautiful night. Before I left, I texted my dad and told him I wanted to go to the mountains and maybe catch a cool sunrise, but I didn’t really want to hit snow. He suggested Yellow Pine, which is really pretty, and only like 25 people live there year-round. It’s more popular in the summertime, and it’s a popular spot that my dad goes to fish on the South Fork of the Salmon River. I thought it was perfect.
I drove up there and it was really pretty. There was a lot of snow, but then the snow became more manageable, and it was just as beautiful as I knew it would be. I was by myself and when I was packing up last minute, I threw a sleeping bag in my pickup just in case. Maybe I’d have to sleep in my truck, who knows? Luckily I was super prepared. I had a lot of food, I had tons of warm clothes. I brought two extra pairs of socks. I definitely come prepared for cold weather. So that was the good news.
It took me about four hours as I drove up to Yellow Pine, and it was the cutest little town. It’s pretty much shut down in the winter because it’s their off season. But they still had this one little cafe/tavern that was open, and I talked to a woman who lives there and runs it and it was so cool. I got to talk to her about living up in the mountains, and she’s single, and she said she had tried to bring four different guys up there with her, but they couldn’t handle the seclusion. It was a lot of fun. We talked, drank some beers, and I thought I’d stay in a little motel in town. I walked over there, but because it’s the off-season, they were closed. I thought I’d just drive down back to the South Fork, stop at a mile marker for some natural hot springs that I know about, find a place to pull off the road, and I’d just sleep in the backseat of my pickup. No big deal. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s not the first or last time I’ve just camped in my truck.
The Unexpected Happens
I started driving, it was about 8:30 P.M., so it had gotten dark and there must have been a rock slide or something. All of a sudden there were these rocks in the road, but they were small, so I didn’t think much of it. Suddenly my sensor flashers on my dash started going off and beeping at me. I looked and it said my tire pressure on my front passenger tire was at a two, which is very low. That’s a popped tire. I thought, “Oh gosh, I’m in trouble. I’m screwed.” I pulled off and instantly I knew I was in trouble because I have different wheels that aren’t my stock wheels that are on my pickup. Apparently each different kind of wheel comes with a special lug nut key. I guess that’s so people don’t just steal hubcaps. I remembered somebody telling me one time not to lose this lug nut key because if you get a flat tire, you won’t be able to get the tire off.
I couldn’t find it. I had even texted my friend at some point long before this asking if they remembered where it was and they didn’t. In that moment I should’ve ordered a new lug nut key before I forgot about it, but I didn’t, and there I was. I knew I had no way to get that tire off. So I sat there with my thoughts, and then I just started laughing. I have this really bad natural reaction to just laugh when things go bad. It’s a really terrible habit. I remember one time when I was working in a corporate office, our CEO came in and he gave us some kind of terrible news. He’s like, “Our numbers are terrible. We’re not going to hit our revenue numbers for this month.” And I started laughing — and not on purpose. I had to take my hand and clasp it over my mouth. It’s like a nervous tick that I have when something goes wrong. So, I sat there laughing.
I got out, I checked my tire, and the rocks had totally slashed my tire. They even dented the rim a little bit. I get back in and I started thinking about my options. I had no cellphone service, and I was in a part of the country where nobody really goes, especially that time of year. I saw maybe one or two other cars during the whole drive, so no one was driving by. Yellow Pine was 12 miles behind me. The nearest town otherwise is 45 miles up some really hard terrain. Later I found out I never would have been able to go that way because of the snow. I also knew I was in the mountains, and there are mountain lions and things in this part of the country, so I wasn’t about to do that in the dark. So I figured I’d sleep in my truck, which was my plan anyway (just not right in that spot), and try to figure it out in the morning.
Honestly, it really wasn’t that bad. I had a super warm sleeping bag. I had wool socks, I had really warm clothes. I wasn’t cold. I have a moon roof in my pickup, so I was able to look up and see the sky, and the moon was almost completely full. I could see millions and millions of stars. I actually remember sitting there thinking, “You know, this really isn’t the end of the world.” I woke up the next morning and I did actually feel cold at that point. I turned my car on and turned the heater on and laid there for a minute. I warmed up, and when the sun came up I thought I’d hike to the top of the mountain by me and see if I could get cellphone service. I figured the best case scenario was that I’d get some service and call for help, worst case it’s beautiful out and at least I’d get a good workout and a nice hike in.
I hiked up. I was freezing when I got out. The bad part about hiking in this situation was that it’s kind of tricky. You don’t want to sweat too much because the second that you sit down and you’re going to get really, really cold. So you kind of have to under-dress when you’re first getting started and feel a little cold knowing that your body temperature is going to heat up. So I got to the top, no cellphone service. I came back down, and I figured my only option was to walk back to Yellow Pine where I had WiFi at the cafe/tavern. I started walking, and about four miles in, this red Toyota Tundra comes down the road! This really nice, old retired couple stopped when I waved. I asked for a ride and promised them I wasn’t a weirdo. I did have my pistol and I told them that, but it’s just for protection out in the country alone. They ended up driving me an hour and a half back into town. I called my brother and he drove me home. The next day, my sweet grandpa drove me back up, my pickup got towed, we got the tires replaced, and everything was figured out.
I Cried Later, But I Got Through it
That whole story is just one example of a seemingly helpless situation that was very frustrating. I could have gotten really angry or I could have started hysterically crying. I could have had an anxiety attack. I’m not saying that I don’t do those things. In fact, I did cry. When the retired couple dropped me off at a restaurant in town, I was fine until I sat down and started making phone calls. It just hit me. I started tearing up. The waitress saw me and came over. She didn’t know what was going on, but she said, “You know what, Sweetie? Bad things happen, but it’s going to be okay.” I started crying. I was doing that cry where you can barely breathe or speak and you almost sound like you’re going to hyperventilate, and I explained what happened. So, I did have a cry. I did give myself that.
The older I get, I’ve just learned that a positive attitude will get you so much further than the alternative. That might sound cliche and cheesy, but it’s actually true. You get what you focus on, and if you’re going to focus on everything that’s going wrong, then things will probably go wrong. If you focus on the things that are going right, and that’s where your energy and your focus and your attention goes, then your mindset begins to change. When everything is going wrong, try to think about some things that you can still be positive about or be grateful for.
Training Your Brain to Be Positive
The other thing that I’ve learned is that you almost have to train yourself into this type of thinking. It may not come naturally, you have to actively make choices each time something happens to train your brain to be positive when things go wrong. It’s not this one particular situation that’s going to change your whole life. In this story, I could have cursed and cried and swore and been pissed off, and that probably wouldn’t change the rest of my life. But it’s the process of repeatedly over and over and over, every single time something goes wrong, to try to focus on some small piece of gratitude or beauty or happiness inside of what’s going wrong that can slowly change your life. That process begins to shape your brain. That process will slowly start to change the way that you look at things. It’s that process that shapes your overall perspective on how you view problems as a whole, as a big picture.
The thing to remember is that being positive is a choice. It’s a choice that you and only you has control over. Things can go wrong and you can look at everything that’s gone wrong. Or, things can go wrong and you can work to get out of the negative spiral that a negative thought process can create. Be a realist and say, “Yeah, these things suck. Yes, my tire is slashed. Yes, I have no cellphone service. But guess what? I also can figure this out.” Being positive is a choice that you actively have to train your brain to do. I tell this to my kids, but it’s true that there’s only two things in your life that you can choose, and that’s your attitude and your effort. When I start to get whiny and when I start to complain, I remind myself of that lesson. When I’m lying in bed in the morning, I don’t want to get up and workout. When I want to give up on something that’s really hard. When I want to break the promises I make to myself. I think about that saying.
You may be thinking that it’s easy for me to say since your struggles may be much harder than mine, and you may be right. I don’t know the path that you’re walking on. So many of the people reading this may be going through things that I can’t even comprehend what it would feel like to go through. Even if you have had similar struggles as me, each of us can still go through things very differently. The truth is that everybody has tough times — everybody. But you know what? The strongest, most beautiful people I know have been through some of the worst. I’ve come out of my own hard things, and I can look back and remember that some of the hardest times in my life caused me to become a stronger person later.
It was also because I was able to take a step back. I remember on my wedding day, or on the days that both of my kids were born, my mom wasn’t there. She was sitting in a prison cell. I remember in that moment I allowed myself to grieve. I’m not saying don’t feel your emotions. I allowed myself to grieve. I thought to myself, “I can’t change anything about it. That’s not something I have control over. What I do have control over is my attitude right now.” I can choose to be positive and I can choose to focus on this beautiful day. Instead, I focused on the connections and relationships that I do have, and the people that could be there. I could choose to be upset or I could choose to focus on what I had. If staying positive doesn’t feel natural to you or if it feels awkward or cheesy, I get it. That’s how I used to feel too.
Tools for Gratitude and Positivity
One of the tips that I have is to start each day with a gratitude journal. I remember for years, my friend Lynn Manning told me that she did this. For a long time I thought it was a good idea in theory, but that I’d never actually do it. I guess I thought it was silly. Then, of course, I started keeping one and I cannot tell you the difference that made in starting my day off with something that I’m grateful for, something positive that I’m looking at. Instead of starting your day thinking, “Ugh, I have to do this and that and this and that.” It started my day with, “I have a lot to be grateful for and I have a lot to be thankful for and this is what I’m feeling positive about.”
You can also try using visual reminders. Again, this felt super freaking cheesy for me. When it comes to body image, I remember I didn’t understand how someone can actually like their body? It felt so hard for me. It felt like such a struggle. I started writing on my mirror with a dry erase marker listing out the things I liked about my body. At first it wasn’t much, I wrote stuff like, “my eyes,” and stuff like that. Eventually I started realizing that it felt good to look at the list on my mirror each day. Then I wrote more, like, “the little dimple in my cheek,” or, “that my traps looked strong,” because it made me feel good wearing tank tops. Did it feel cheesy as heck when I started? Yes. It felt freaking cheesy. But you know what, it worked!
Seeing that every single day started to shift the way that I viewed my body. I do that with goals. I have whiteboards all over my house. I have Post-it notes all over my house, too. We don’t just become the person that we want to be magically. You have to create that person. You have to shape it and mold it. And it’s through all these little practices that we create it. It’s learning to practice to be positive. It’s learning to take action and do things that you’re scared to do. It’s surrounding yourself with people you want to be like. It’s all these little things that you do that’s going to mold you into this better version of yourself. It’s hard at first and it feels weird and anytime you do something new, it’s going to feel awkward.
It’s just like blowing up a balloon. The first time you blow it up, it’s hard. It doesn’t stretch out very well, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s the same with being positive. If being positive doesn’t come natural to you, start with baby steps, and then force yourself to actively work on it every single day and then remind yourself over and over and over again. Even if you need to write it out like I do, and tape it on your wall. Even if you need to write it down in a journal, or put it on a whiteboard, or write it on your mirror.
Remember, it’s a Choice
Lastly, I just want to remind you that it’s the regular practice of choosing to stay positive that makes the difference. Staying positive is a choice, and doesn’t just happen. Things are going to go wrong, and it’s up to you to choose how you handle those things. I know that story in the mountains is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and ended up costing me a crap load of money, but oh well. That day it was a popped tire, tomorrow it may be that my kids decide not to listen to me, the next day I may be running late. It was a hard situation, I was frustrated, I was scared, but it taught me something. And I got to see some of the most beautiful Idaho scenery ever. Every single day I could look at something and be pissed off or be negative. But by choosing to be positive, you’re going to have a much more positive life. You’re gonna have a more positive impact on people. You’re going to be happier if you allow yourself to focus on the positive.
I hope that resonated with you guys. If you have any specific questions or you want more tips, go ahead and leave it in a comment on my Instagram or my Facebook post. I love and appreciate every single one of you guys. I wholeheartedly mean it.
Staying positive and working on mindset is a giant piece in many aspects of our lives, including goal setting. I talk about even more tips like these in my 21-Day Challenge to Find Your Compass that teaches you how to keep your promises to yourself and how to set a goal and actually achieve it. My challenge starts on October 1st, so join NOW before it’s too late! I really hope to see you there!
P.S. I also talk about this topic on my podcast! If you’d rather listen than read, click HERE!