How to Maintain Your Positive Attitude…No Matter What’s Coming At You

Guest Post by Brooke Musterman, author of Reptiles on Caffeine

Words cannot convey the sheer terror I felt in the pit of my stomach my first day at my new job at one of the busier coffee shops. I was manning the espresso bar, making the drinks for the ever-growing 7:00 rush.

People seemed to be coming out of nowhere just to terrorize me. I wasn’t inept, I was just WAY out of my league.

A typical rush at the store I had come from was 5 people; considerably less than the hundreds that seemed to be standing in my line staring expectantly at me now.

 Stopping to explain and apologize would take too much time, I’d best just keep moving. Decaf…skim…latte….Half-caf soy cappuccino… Triple Venti Mocha…I stammered. Venti… Americano [did I put enough shots in that?]

Flushed red, barely uttering a word, I handed out drinks. At this point, I didn’t even care if they were the right drinks. Just take it.

 People complained because I was slow and their drinks weren’t right. They had every right to. I was the barista to watch out for. Stick to drip coffee when Brooke’s on the bar.

 It wasn’t that I couldn’t make the drinks, it was just that I couldn’t make them under pressure. [Welcome to the real world of coffee on demand, I know]. But I hadn’t learned to juggle yet.

 That would come many years and many needless bad days later. It was a very stressful several months after that. Even when I got better, it was as if I didn’t realize it. I was still “the one to watch out for” in my head. I certainly don’t claim to have it all together, but I’ve learned some helpful hints along the way.

 Stop Seeing Black and White

For one thing, I tended to catastrophize bad things. If something bad happened, OMG it was REALLY bad. Unfortunately, I didn’t use the same intensity for the good things that happened.

 Slow down

What now comes second nature to me, seemed to take forever to learn. I wasn’t always able to keep a positive attitude. In fact, it was so stressful at first, that I usually had a really bad attitude. It wasn’t that I found it difficult, it was that I was rushing things and putting unrealistic expectations on myself.


It took a long time but I figured out how to get in my own groove. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I SLOWED down, made sure I was breathing right [not the shallow breaths that signal “PANIC!” to the brain] it got a lot easier. I was able to think clearer.


It took me longer to get into my groove because I couldn’t relax. So, I stayed stuck in my defensive mode, seeing other people’s innocent, but thoughtless, behavior as attempts to foil my plans.

One thing I had to learn is to consistently be open to whatever the moment brings, not assuming the worst of people, letting aggravating things roll like water off a duck’s back.  Tensing up, trying to control things, is the worst thing I can do.

Few mistakes are as dire as they feel at the moment. I’m better able to problem-solve when I’m relaxed. But it’s something you have to relearn this every day, every hour, and every minute… and I’m always forgetting.

Few people are out to “get” you

I still catch myself, every now and then in an “everyone is out to get me” mood. I actually had one today. I find when I am focused on myself, my comforts, my needs, and my ease. I tend to get more agitated when they are not being met. When I am externally focused, I am less prickly.

The thing is, these moods are automatic. They sneak up on me when I’m least expecting it. It’s very tough to counteract these resentments. I can write sensibly about them now, but when I’m in the moment, it’s kill or be killed.

 Taming the reptile

One sure way to lower our defenses and put the reptile that lives in our brain to rest is to laugh. The element of surprise along with healthy laughter acts as a soothing balm to our soul, allowing us to rise above our lower brain.

Everyone has had a Steel Magnolia’s moment. One minute Sally Field, as M’Lynn, breaks down, venting her fury about Shelby’s untimely death to her astonished friends.

 “…I..I’m just so mad I want to hit something!”

 Then in a moment of comic relief, Clairee pushes “Ouiser,” Shirley Maclaine’s crotchety character toward her.

 “Well, here – hit THIS!”

 Suddenly, all the intense sadness and anger erupts into hilarious laughter.

 We are family

 Remember, we are all in this together. This is particularly hard to feel when you feel isolated by annoyances. When you let a co-worker’s or customer’s annoying habits drive you crazy, you pit yourself against them. YOU certainly don’t have any such annoying habits, it becomes a battle, putting someone on defense. Find things to laugh about, if only how bad the day is going. If you can find even the teeniest common ground with them, it will lighten moods, doing wonders for the working environment

I’ve had several days where everything that could go wrong did, but because of the mood and the temperament of the people I was working with, we were able to just laugh it off. We felt a bond because we were all dealing with ridiculous customers, clumsy co-workers, an injured espresso machine, having to tell customers we were out of product… you get the picture.

 It’s a Work In Progress

When I step back from myself; realize that a mistake is not the end of the world, though all indications seem so; Upshift to my more thinking brain, where I can respond, rather than react; my interactions with people are going to be a lot more civil and productive.

I’m not going to be assuming the worst of people, I’m going to be less focused on “watching my back” and more focused on doing my job well.

There are actually many ways to increase your Zen moments at work, but they often take several years to learn. It takes holding the intention to remain positive, regardless of what happens on any given day.

 These are just a few of the ones I’m still learning.



Brooke S. Musterman,
Author of Reptiles on Caffeine, Freelance Writer
“Whatever you do, keep him away from my brainstem!!”  Professor Hunsecker, Aliens Among Us

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  1. alex says:

    …an awful lot of my life would work better if I could rememer to respond rather than react. Thanks for the reminder

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