During this pandemic, I keep hearing the phrase, “We’re all in the same boat.” Well, we’re not. Some people are dealing with grave sickness or imminent death, others have lost family members. Some individuals are dealing with terrible isolation and loneliness, while others have large families and expanded responsibilities. We may be weathering the same storm but the boats are quite different.

Everyone has had a different experience throughout this pandemic, and how we internalize this reality will determine how weather this storm and how happy we can emerge from it.

Shawn Achor, a bestselling Harvard researcher and professor, tells his audience the following story.

Imagine for a moment that you walk into a bank. There are 50 other people in the bank. A robber walks in and fires his weapon once. You are shot in the right arm.

Now, if you were honestly describing this event to your friends and coworkers the next day, do you describe it as unlucky or lucky?

Invariably, his audience responds with an approximate 70/30 split. Most people answer that it is objectively unfortunate. “I was just minding my business running an errand and suddenly my arm gets a bullet!” Or, “Seriously? I’m the only person who gets shot?” Definitely unfortunate.

And somehow, 30% of the audience comes to the conclusion that this is in fact a fortunate event. They see another side: “I could have been shot in my head or heart. I could have died.” Others exclaim, “Fifty people were in the room, and no one died! This is incredibly fortunate.”

Where does this ability to see the glass as half-full come from? How can one consistently create a positive conclusion for themselves?

We tell ourselves stories on a daily basis. When faced with a situation, we subconsciously present ourselves with various counter-stories that compare what could have been with what actually happened.

Those whose counter-story was, I’m the ONLY one who got shot, would logically believe that being shot in the arm is unfortunate.

But those utilizing the comparative explanatory style of thinking, it could have meant death, but I survived, will view being shot in the arm as actually positive.

The comparison we create for life scenarios is what determines our satisfaction level in life. Our ability to construct a helpful counter-fact is a key to whether we become emotionally paralyzed or well-adjusted. By developing a positive explanatory style, you can become a part of the 30% who see the glass half full.

The greatest part about counter-facts is that they are completely hypothetical. Which means we hold the power to create them and use them to help us attain happiness.

The Mishna teaches, Who is rich? He who is happy with their lot (Avos,4:1). How do we achieve this state of positivity? The secret is the counter-story, the explanatory style that a person is able to create for themselves.

No matter how dire our situation, creating vivid counter-stories help make our lives sweet.

What are you telling yourself during the coronavirus.

Are you saying:

I can’t take this anymore.
I’m lonely...
The children are fighting!
I need more personal space from family members
I hate schooling my children!
These masks are so annoying I can barely breathe!

Or

I’m so lucky to be alive.
Everyone in my family is healthy.
Thank God I am not stuck in a hospital.
I am so happy I get to hug my children more now that they are home from school all day.
I’m so grateful I have access to protective facial gear.

Armed with a good counter-story we can weather any storm. They are the timeless secret to developing a good eye and positive mental attitude. One day years from now, we may be having a bad week or a bad month, but hopefully, the memory of corona will serve as a counter-story to infuse that difficult moment with joy.