When One Door Closes…

“Mom, what is wrong with people?” my daughter asked me in a defeated and frustrated tone. “Why don’t people do what they say they are going to do?” she continued. “He didn’t even bother to call.” Her heat had been broken for two weeks in the dead of winter, and the HVAC tech that was scheduled to come out was a no show yet again (for the fourth time in a row and she was freezing). Now she may have been referring to a specific situation regarding her heat, but her questions were valid.

I sat silent for a minute thinking about what she had said. “Mom, are you there?” she asked after about two minutes. “Yes, I am just thinking about what you said,” I replied. The truth is, what she was asking me boiled down to respect – respect for others, respect for ourselves, and respect for our work. Life is full of HVAC techs that do not show up and do not call to apologize. The lesson to be learned is how to not let others’ incompetency or complete disregard for others affect you.

I told her that it is more than okay to feel disappointed and frustrated when people disappoint and frustrate you, but that it is important to not take it personally and to move on and figure out another path to journey down. I gave her five minutes to rant and get it out of her system. Once she cooled down, I asked if she wanted my opinion (I always ask before I offer it because sometimes people want to vent and other times people want solutions, and I am not a mind reader). She wanted my opinion.

I told her that there was no point in reaching out to this tech again as that road seemed to be a dead-end after four failed attempts. We brainstormed a bit about solutions, instead of going over the problem again. After about 30 minutes we had gotten the name of two independent HVAC specialists (one from Google and the other from her law school classmate). She emailed her landlord asking for a return phone call. The landlord called about 20 minutes later and they had a productive human-to-human conversation, whereby the landlord agreed to coordinate billing for one of the new techs she found and pay for a hotel nearby until the heat was fixed (that law school education came in handy). She hung up and exhaled (for the first time in about two weeks).

When we get frustrated by things and people outside of our control, it is important to take a moment to pause and regroup. We need to get to a calm place where we can think clearly and come up with solutions. Going over what keeps going wrong only ingrains that message further into our brains. Rather, shake it off, and instead of trying to fight through closed doors, look for a window that is slightly ajar to open and climb through. We cannot change others, we can only shift ourselves and how we react and interact with others. So, if you want to get a positive result, approach with positivity.

Shifting from push to pull

Do you want to feel more energetic during the day? If so, try shifting from “push” to “pull.” A program called “Positive Intelligence” teaches labeling our actions and thoughts as helpful, or not, in identifying the direction we want to head in. For example, when headed in a negative direction we look at what can be sabotaging or depleting us. Whereas going in a sage direction, meaning that we are wisely guiding ourselves, leads us to be more energized, productive, and positive.

From “Positive Intelligence”:

Research has shown that our reservoir of willpower is exhaustible and can be depleted. In one study, participants who used up their willpower trying to resist unhealthy snacks put in front of them later gave up faster when faced with challenging puzzles. Has this happened to you?

The saboteurs push you into action based on negative emotions like stress, fear of failure, or looking back. This negative push of saboteurs drains your willpower and that has great consequences because it spills over into other things. For example, if you begin your workday using willpower to push yourself to do multiple unhealthy, unpleasant tasks by noon your willpower reservoir might be depleted. Further consequence might be the inability to resist temptations and eat unhealthy food at lunch. Another potential consequence might be impatience with colleagues in an afternoon meeting; moreover, you may not be as resilient in recovering from the stress such as a failure later that day.

An upside – your sage (wise advisor) pulls you into action based on positive emotions such as empathy, curiosity, wonder, creativity, passion, or compelling vision. This pull of the sage based on positive emotions is compelling and doesn’t require willpower to keep going. It’s easier and flows naturally.

Today as you find yourself pushing yourself or others with negative emotions, stop and shift to pull. Make the task or situation more compelling and appealing. Use sage perspectives such as empathy, exploration, or innovative powers to inject something positive into the situation. Turn direction into something you want to do rather than something you have to do. Shifting to pull means you keep your reservoir of willpower full so you can be more patient with others (allowing you to handle unexpected challenges) or to recover from failures faster.

Focus on What We Can Control

My grandmother had a saying, “When you plan, G-d laughs.” I realized as I got older that what she was really talking about was control.

It’s not that she was saying not to plan, it’s that she was saying make your plans but be flexible about them. How I interpret it is that there will always be situations that are outside of our control and learn to “go with the flow.” It’s certainly less stressful. In my experience I’ve noticed that there’s usually something better waiting for us, and instead of pushing through a closed door, seek one that is open. You can be persistent, and at a certain point you want to make decisions to shift or to keep pushing and depleting your energy.

Your time is valuable and precious. Don’t waste it on things you can’t control. The more you resist, the more things persist. That makes life harder. You do have control of yourself – your reactions, actions, effort, and attitude. You will benefit by using your energy wisely.

Focus on the action you can take by making conscious decisions to move forward. Put your energy into something fulfilling and satisfying.

Don’t let negative emotions, resentments, and unproductive thoughts linger and guide you. Manage your emotions outside your comfort one. It may feel uncomfortable stepping out of your comfort zone. Take baby steps. You don’t have to jump in the deep end of the pool, just put a toe in.

To summarize, follow these tips for a positive outcome:

1) Use your energy wisely when things are out of our control

2) Make conscious decisions

3) Put your energy into things you can control

4) Focus on thoughts and actions that move you forward

5) Take baby steps

6) Choose something that is fulfilling and has meaning to you

7) Watch life flow more easily

Managing Emotional Reactions

When you listen to the news you might notice the increasing amount of stories containing anger. I’ve personally observed a case of road rage after one driver cut off another; and I’ve witnessed people being rude and having an angry tone when they are waiting in a slow moving grocery store line.

People seem more reactionary than ever before. My question is how can we channel the negative emotions we experience in a way that leads to more conscious empowering decisions? If you’re thinking that you can’t, the good news is you can. There are things we can do to lessen the negative and depleting energy.

All emotions, including anger, provide us with information. Scientifically, anger hijacks us and can lead to emotions like shame and guilt. Being aware of what triggers us is helpful. Emotional triggers can be people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations.

I recently was on a webinar given by the Tapping Summit (Emotional Freedom Technique) where the moderator said that anger is a signal that says our system is being attacked, and the energy from anger keeps us safe. We have that trigger because we feel the need to protect ourselves and because our systems perceive us to be in danger. So this is a healthy response. Issues arise when what we perceive is not necessarily accurate.

When things like frustration, weakness, disappointment, a lack of patience, or sadness show up, it can all get channeled into anger. Here are several ways to deal with these emotions in a healthy way:

Deepen your awareness. You can’t make a change unless you are aware. Notice your thoughts (self-talk) and notice your environment (where you are and who you’re with). Places and people trigger reactions, both positive and negative.

Be aware of where you feel the emotion in your body because it triggers a physical reaction. As soon as you recognize the trigger use that physical reaction as a signal. For example, when I get anxious about something, I get a “kicked in the stomach” feeling. As soon as I am aware of that feeling I take a breath or a pause and ask myself, “What am I anxious about, whether it’s work or personal, that I’m getting that feeling?” It’s very helpful in pinpointing what’s going on at that moment.

Deep breathing exercises. Try this:

Take a deep breath, hold it for 5-8 seconds, and release the breath. You can repeat as needed. It will physiologically ground you.

Tapping or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Tapping is a tool to assist with emotional or physical issues. As you tap on certain points on your body you are breaking up energy that might have been stuck there for years. At the same time you are tapping, you are saying limiting beliefs (“I am afraid of being wrong”) and then re-framing to a positive phrase (Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong and that’s okay!) To learn more about tapping Google the Tapping Solution to see it demonstrated… Or, you can ask me. I am an EFT practitioner.

Count to ten. If you still feel triggered, keep counting

Take a walk to cool off.