Imagine you come across a traffic jam when you are already running late for an appointment. How do you react? If you are like most people, you will go “Oh, no!” and sit there fuming and cursing the traffic. As a result when you do finally get through the hold-up and arrive at your appointment you are hot and flustered and hardly capable of giving a good impression.
There is an alternative way to react which is to sit there calmly and just accept the situation. OK, so you may be a few minutes late, but at least you will be cool, calm and collected when you do arrive and can get down to business straight away.
Very often it’s not the problem that is the problem, but our reaction to it.
When I broke my hip a few years ago and found that I was going to be on crutches for over a month, I could have regarded it as a disaster. Certainly I had to struggle with my feelings quite a bit at first, but I knew that it would only be a disaster if I made it into a disaster. So rather than focus on what I couldn’t do, I put my entire focus into what I could do. The result was that I had one of the most creative and successful times of my working life.
One of the most useful tools I discovered to keep my attitude right was the question “What feelings am I creating right now?” It made me aware whenever I started to create a disaster scenario, which incidentally included an entire alternative universe of the things I could have been doing if I hadn’t had the accident!
Why not ask yourself this question this very moment as you are reading this blog posting? “What feelings am I creating right now?” Are you interested and inspired or bored and distracted? Some people reading this will be one thing, others another. This posting is exactly the same newsletter for all of you. How you react to it is your own creation.
Feelings are important. They are what distinguish us from robots or computers. How else would we know what to do? Without feelings there would be no way of telling what is valuable to us or not. A computer has no feelings. It couldn’t care less whether it’s word-processing, signing on to the web, adding figures or running a game. Can you imagine your computer complaining because you use it to play too many games or getting upset because you don’t spend enough time with it? No, if there’s going to be any complaining it will come from one of the humans in your life!
So the question “What feelings am I creating right now?” helps us to identify which feelings are useful to us and which aren’t. The process of observation in itself helps us to dissociate from harmful feelings and make them more manageable. The question also points us towards accepting responsibility for our feelings. We run them – they don’t run us!
Think back to a time recently when you got upset about something. Imagine yourself back in the situation and ask yourself the question “What feelings am I creating right now?” You may become aware for the first time that it wasn’t the situation that was upsetting you. It was you who was upsetting yourself over the situation. You could have reacted in a different way. And if you had you would probably have been able to deal with the situation more constructively.