How to Stay Positive in the Face of a Dreaded Situation

As most of you know, I believe in using play to help us grow. I especially love to apply play to heavy and dark moments. Whether it’s an email from your boss that it’s time to talk (gulp) or a look of anger and outrage from your significant other (uh-oh), you might consider arming yourself with a play mindset instead of battle gear…and see what happens.


So how do you do that? Well, earlier this year, I gave my first TEDx Talk in Anchorage, Alaska, where I spoke about the Play Instinct and its possibilities for problem solving. I really believe it’s our play instinct that will help us navigate difficult social situations like loneliness and vulnerability. Watch the video for more on that. Meanwhile, here’s a quick-trick method—using the word PLAY as a memory-jogging acronym—of how to step into the play mindset and face some unpleasant situations with ease.


Permission: Give yourself permission to be playful, and set that intention

Automatic thought: “Ugh, I have to have this conversation.”

Play mindset:  “Great, I get to have this conversation.”

You’re simply shifting your mindset from obligation and dread to lightness and the unexpected. 


Let go of judgment and stay curious

Automatic thought: “This is going to suck. He’s probably mad, and I must’ve screwed up.”

Play mindset: “Okay, let’s see where this goes. I wonder what’s going on.”

It’s a matter of leaving yourself open to possibilities. You have no idea what you’re in for, so why assume the worst.


Acknowledge your feelings (to yourself)

Automatic thought: “Get me out of here.”

Play mindset: “Hmmm, I’m feeling a little vulnerable or uncomfortable right now.”

It’s natural to want to escape uncomfortable situations. Play Instinct is about embracing the unknown and being hyper-present—because being aware of how you’re feeling will help you avoid generating resistance to your thoughts and getting lost in your head.


Yes it is to what comes up

Automatic thought: “But, you don’t understand.”

Play mindset: “I will listen to what you’re saying AND hear an additional perspective.”


By being open to the other person’s perspective, you not only allow yourself to hear what’s being said (without your internal defensive monologue getting in the way) but also to be heard when it’s your turn to talk. Starting with “Yes, and…” immediately diffuses any tension in the air. Also, this is a common improv technique; adopting a play mindset leaves you open to all kinds of possibilities because you’re not instantly assuming the worst or placing a right-or-wrong template over the situation.

I hope you ennjoy my TEDx Talk. As always, I would love to know what you think!

My best,

Stella GrizontComment