Soul-Talk: Is That a Coffin You Are Living In?

By choosing to make even one microscopic change today, and another tomorrow, it won't be long until you notice that those minor improvements have actually begun to add up.
03/19/2012 08:53 am ET Updated May 19, 2012

Did you wake up this morning enthused with a "Thank-God-It's-Monday!" attitude? If not, perhaps it was more like, "Here we go again," as though you were putting on a cold, wet boot. The cold, wet boot crowd may not have even awakened, and instead are just sleepwalking through the day. For some, it's so bad that the "night of the living dead" seems more like an apt description.

If you're stuck in the rut of the humdrum, then perhaps you recognize that "a rut is just a coffin with the ends kicked out." We all know people at work who retired years ago and still show up every day to punch that clock one more time. Are you living this form of Groundhog Day?

What prevents you from living life with "Thank God It's Monday" enthusiasm, not just on Monday but every day for that matter? Perhaps the problem lies less in what you are doing on your job and more in what you are doing inside the confines of your own head while you go through your day.

Are You Choosing to Die a Little Every Day?

Just about all of us have had the experience of working in environments where our contributions are either unappreciated or, worse yet, not even noticed. If others aren't noticing your contributions, what can you do about it? Many opt for the "die-a-little-every-day" route and succumb to the coffin of a rut-like existence. "If they don't notice, if they don't care, why should I?" The simple answer: Because YOU notice. Some part of you is keeping track of your choices and not only notices but endures the consequences.

When we choose to die a little every day, most of us crank up our Self-Talk and cast the finger of blame toward some other offending party -- our boss, our coworkers, our customers or any other in a long list of the guilty. Those who choose the die-a-little-every-day route typically join the "Ain't It Awful Club" before fully entering the coffin. You know its members -- they can add negativity to just about any negative situation through their incessant whining and complaining all the while refusing to do anything to make an actual difference.

Joining the "Ain't It Awful Club and dying a little every day are voluntary actions, choices you make yourself. Make no mistake, no matter how "awful" it might seem wherever you find yourself, you do have other choices. If you're not convinced, read a little about Viktor Frankl ,who discovered freedom while surviving four years in Nazi concentration camps, or W. Mitchell, who endured a blazing motorcycle accident and a paralyzing plane crash, only to learn that he could excel in life by taking responsibility for his own choices. In his own words: "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left."

Neither Viktor Frankl nor W. Mitchell would argue everything is just fine, yet both would counsel that you can learn to make the most of the negative situations. Deluding yourself into pretending life is grand isn't the same as making the best of what you have in front of you.

The Alternative to Living Life In a Coffin of Your Own Making

If you listen closely to your Soul-Talk amidst the challenges life presents, you may find a quiet voice deep inside reminding you that you do have choices. Your Soul-Talk would have you realize that you can create a better way to go through life, if only you would give less credence to the Self-Talk that stems from all the things that have gone wrong in your life so far. The biggest problem with negative Self-Talk is that it can rightfully point out the obvious facts -- things have gone wrong, and more than once. Surely the Mitchells of the world have a lot of evidence of what can go wrong and yet have found a way to move from delusional to positive, personal choice.

What may not be so obvious, however, is the role you play in things continuing to go downhill. When things have gone wrong in your past, how often have you added the proverbial "insult to injury" by dwelling on the negativity? As my spiritual teacher, John-Roger, has often pointed out to me, "The negativity of the situation is enough, you don't have to make it worse by adding even more negativity to it." Again, you only need look toward the myriad examples like Viktor Frankl and W. Mitchell to discover the possibility in personal choice.

If you find yourself in that daily coffin of "same-old-same-old," you might ask yourself what you can do to begin making "your seemingly-impossible good happen now." By choosing to dwell on what isn't working, you are pretty much going to ensure that nothing of consequence will change.

If, instead, you begin to focus on what you can do to make your experience better, you will begin to find choices that lead to minor improvements. Minor improvements may not seem like much, but at least they are improvements. Rarely does your seemingly-impossible good happen all at once; rather, it takes work, focus and choice -- every day -- to make whatever difference you can. Would you rather experience a minor improvement or more of that daily coffin?

By choosing to make even one microscopic change today, and another tomorrow, it won't be long until you notice that those minor improvements have actually begun to add up. You will be the one doing the accounting, and while you may be the only one to notice -- at least initially -- sooner or later you may find others noticing that "something's different."

Would you rather be one making the best of the 9,000 you have left, or the one bemoaning your fate? Coffin, or Thank-God-It's-Monday? The choice is yours.

I'd love to hear your take on this subject. What has been your experience with escaping the coffin? How have you moved from blame and complain to allowing your seemingly-impossible good to take place? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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