Most everything that we struggle with in business and in life is a story that we tell ourselves. It’s a story of what we think might happen and unfortunately, it’s usually a pretty bad story.
There are very few things that we struggle with that are actually taking place in the moment. Our struggles mostly live in the future or the past. Sure, it might seem like the struggle is happening in the moment when your boss comes in telling you that a report needs to be on his desk in an hour and you’re sure then it will take two hours to complete. Isn’t that happening in the moment? Actually, no. It isn’t.
What is actually happening in the moment is that you are running a little movie in your head. This movie is set in the future, one hour from now. In it, the main character, you, walks into your boss’s office and tells him that the report is not done. Then the boss flies off the handle, fires you and you end up living under a bridge or something like that. But none of that is really happening at all. All that is really happening in the moment is that there is a task to complete. Nothing more. So why do we get so effected? It is because the emotional part of our brain takes all of its cues from the intellectual part of our brain. The emotional part doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. When you run the little movie about you getting fired your emotional brain thinks that it’s actually happening.
The other movie that often gets run is one that takes place in the past. In that movie, your boss, a high school football coach, your mother or father, or any other number of people jibe and harangue you for making a mistake. That movie has imprinted a powerful emotion we call shame. It feels bad and we want to avoid repeating it at all costs. Therefore, we run the movie of the past as a cautionary tale for what we might encounter in the near future.
Regardless of which or both movies get screened, the result is the same. A series of biological triggers occur in your body like an emotional avalanche. You go into fight or flight mode. Your heart rate increases, your eyes dilate, you are flooded with adrenaline. All of this shuts down the creative pipeline that feeds ideas to your consciousness. The movies overwhelm and short circuit all of your other thoughts. Now, your ability to invent creative solutions to your problems is squeezed off like kinking a garden hose.
So, why does this have to happen at all? What is the point? Why do we do this to ourselves? This whole process is actually the body and mind attempting to predict dangerous situations so it can prepare you for the proper response. The problem is that the human software running this program was written about three million years ago. It was originally designed to anticipate things like avoiding saber tooth tigers. Back then, those were really big problems for people. We rarely encounter situations today that put our life in immediate danger,but the software doesn’t know that. So, when it signals a danger response, it is literally placing you in what feels like a life or death situation.The irony in all of this is that, when you think back on all of those stories you have told yourself, you will discover that no more than 10 percent of them come true. Things most oftentimes work out. Not all the time, but they do most of the time. So, freaking yourself out is like betting the farm on a long shot that time and again has never come through. It’s a bad bet and you really need to stop placing it.
By bringing your self back into the conscious moment, you recognize that nothing is actually happening right then. This allows you to calm yourself down and re-open the creative centers of your mind. In doing so, you will suddenly find new and unrealized solutions for the problems at hand. It is entirely likely that one hour is all you need to complete that report. Perhaps someone else in the office has knowledge that could reduce the time it takes or, maybe a few of your friends can pitch in and help you complete in time. Yet, none of these solutions would ever occur to you when your body is in fight or flight mode.
Many successful business people choose a meditation practice or take a walk outside during lunch. This seemingly wasteful use of time actually propels their thinking forward allowing them 360 degree views of the problems they face in their business.
Remember these two truths:
The scary stories we tell ourselves about our past is shame.
The scary stories we tell ourselves about our future is stress.
Neither are real. All that is real is what is happening in your present moment. Do your best to keep yourself there. You will find that it is a much more tangible place where only real things exist. For example, in this present moment you have just read the last word of this article.
Previously published on The Big Time Group
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