Sometimes we have a terrible day. A day when it seems as if everything that can go wrong does so and the universe seems to have been busy laying banana peels on all of our paths.
Consider poor Paul:
Paul was weary when he came to work. His three-year-old daughter, Alice, had been up all night crying. She had an ear infection and slept for a few minutes and then, energized, bawled for an hour. His wife had an important presentation to make and departed to the guest bedroom leaving him to cope.
He could not leave Alice at the pre-school program she normally went to so he put in a desperate call to his mother who lived an hour away. She agreed to look after Alice but managed to get in some pointed comments about how he was never available to talk anymore and how come his wife was not doing a better job with Alice.
The traffic was horrendous, and he was late for his staff meeting. Just last week he had made an issue about persons coming late and suggested tartly that a little planning would help them be on time. Being late was discourteous to all he emphasized.
His admin handed him a note as he walked in. An important customer had just canceled a large order. This meant that he was now behind his numbers for the quarter instead of comfortably ahead. And he had just sent out a memo to the analysts stating that sales were well over projection. How would this affect the coming IPO? He wasn’t sure but knew that it would not help.
The phone rang. It was wife. He had forgotten to cancel the appointment with furnace service. A technician had tried the door and somehow set off the alarm and there were cops and firemen at the house. Could he please go there right away and set things straight? And he better do this fast before they stepped on the flowering plants in the new patch around the door.
He wanted to shut the door and howl. Primal Scream seemed a darn good idea.
What do you do when you have a day like this? And we all have such days. Or such moments in otherwise normal days.
First, sit upright with both feet on the ground and your spine straight.
Second, breathe deeply and slowly. Most of the time we use the top third of our thoracic cavities while breathing. Change this. Continue breathing till you feel your stomach expanding gently and feel it collapse as you exhale gently.
Observe your breath going in, going out. Going in, going out. Going in, going out. Do this for two or three minutes.
Your thoughts are running amuck and your mental chatter is out of control. Worry is colliding with frustration as rage tries to get to center stage only to be pushed aside by anxiety and fear. OBSERVE all this happening.
Don’t react from your emotions. PAUSE and continue breathing deeply.
The angry comment that you were about to make. The blistering email that you were ready to send. Ask yourself if they would really serve your longer-term interests.
Then, from the morass of stuff clamoring for your attention, pick the one that is most important. Deal with it calmly. Quite possibly others are being frantic, but you will remain calm and let this rub off on them. This is how YOU develop ‘presence’. Not by appearing unruffled, but by actually being unruffled.
Then pick the next most important item and deal with it, again calmly. Keep going and keep breathing deeply, slowly.
Remember, no matter how ‘bad’ the day is, it will pass and one day you will smile as you tell your grandkids or younger friends about the storms you had to weather.
The PAUSE is a powerful tool and something you can use every day. Even many times every day.
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