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Shaking Off Your Grumpies

We’ve all hit a point that feels non-negotiable. A moment where you want something so badly - whether it’s that promotion, for that meeting to go well, to finally get that signature on your business proposal, or something similar - and then we don’t get our way. The natural reaction is a burst of negative emotion - sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, the “grumpies”, if you will. You know you won’t get your way, but rather than giving in to these feelings – or letting them build up and create internal angst - there might be something else you can do instead. The key is looking on the bright side. Easier said than done, right? Well, let me share a story of something I experienced recently that you all might have felt in your youth.

It’s a hot summer day – you’re four and a half years old. You’ve just spent the last 20 hours in a cramped car with your little sibling, your mom, and your grandma. You left a fun-filled week on the beach and are headed back home to the sweltering heat of the Midwest, only minus the oh-so-fun beach. On the way, some genius of a grownup says we should stop and visit your aunt and uncle and their older kids who never play with you. You don’t know who suggested it because all you know is you don’t want it. There aren’t any fun toys in the house, nothing to do but “visit”. Ugh. But, at least they have that awesome park right across the street from their house with the super fun playground equipment that you love.

When you pull into the driveway - after the obligatory hugs and hellos, and, of course, holding hands, looking both ways and walking carefully across the street - you dash into the play area (in full sun) and grab hold of the searing-hot metal equipment. You start scooping sand and imagining yourself as the bulldozer boss of the block.

The adults meander over, seeming for some odd reason to stick to the shade, but the 92-degree temps haven’t wilted your spirit yet.

Wait, what?

It’s time to go already?

You’ve got to be kidding me, we just got here!

Less than 5 minutes in the midday sun, and the adults have withered. Everyone’s faces are flushed with the heat, sweat has beaded up on foreheads and at hairlines, and shirts are sticking to backs. But that’s what construction workers are like, right? Hot, sweaty, and working anyway, even when it's hot out.

There are some more kids activities in the shady part of the park, and at first it seems you’re headed there together, and you can get right back to digging.

But no, they’ve taken the path that leads back to the driveway, with the boring house, and the car that promises two and half more hours of cramped riding.

You stop, digging in your heels this time. Jaw set. Eyes narrow. Arms crossed over chest.

You hear, through your frustration, the voice of your mother calling you. Telling you to keep walking. It’s time to go.

And then, you do it. You say it, out loud.


Gasp. All eyes turn to you.

What was that?

A soft-voiced conversation with your mom reveals a parent who is well-equipped for such moments. She offers you a choice: you can continue to be grumpy, or you can shake it off. The afternoon’s events won’t change all that much, but your ability to enjoy them will be vastly different depending on which route you take.

At four and a half years old.

You consider the options. You weigh the outcomes. And then you do it.

You start at the top of your head, and you start shaking.
You shake your head, and your neck, and your shoulders.
Your arms and your torso, your hands, your legs, and your feet.
Ten, twenty, maybe thirty seconds go by.

And you’ve shaken it off.


You take a deep breath, then step into the shade, and walk towards the house, knowing that you’d had at least a few moments to dig, and that there are good things ahead, too.

A few steps later, your aunt catches up with you and together, you pause before crossing the street back to her house. She kneels and looks you in the eye.

“I’m really impressed, kiddo,” she says. “I’ve never seen anyone shake off the grumpies on a hot summer day quite like you just did. I teach people how to have better workdays,” she continues, “and I bet a bunch of the people I know would really love to celebrate with you, and I bet we can all learn something from this, too! Thanks for setting such a great example. Mind if I write about this sometime?” You beam with a grin that goes from ear to ear, and bound up to the house for some watermelon. At least, that’s how you’ll remember it.


Shaking off your grumpies is a life skill that many of us are taught as children, and I think it’s an important one. Not everything is going to go your way - I’ve experienced it many times! But even children learn this lesson and grow from it! Sometimes, we just need to be reminded to shake off those grumpies.



Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Communication & Collaboration

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!








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