by Mr. Paul Templer
Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair and when that happens some of us let ourselves get caught up in the “this sucks!” story. When it happens, no matter how well intentioned the counsel may be, few of us appreciate the “Get over it and get on with it” advice that some feel compelled to offer – in fact, studies reveal that type of advice more-often-than-not evokes a “Bite me” response. We’re more prone to reveling in a state of heroic suffering, impersonating Eeyore as we tell anyone who’ll listen how we’ve been wronged by life, fate or some jerk.
Then there’s Plan B. Adopting it can be extremely uncomfortable insofar as it removes the “victim option.” Plan B can best be summed up with the catchy little phrase “BS is optional.” “Being Stressed” in this context refers to those moments when we allow ourselves to get in our own way.
Caught up in this story that “life’s dumped on me” we often tranquilize ourselves with the notion that we have every right to indulge in a bout of heroic suffering. When we look at those “others” who seem to respond well in stressful situations, we assume that they were the lucky winners in some type of genetic lottery – consoling ourselves with the conviction that either we were born with the ability to manage chaos or we are just destined to unravel in stressful situations.
Alas, upon further research it seems that those who seem to be able to keep their heads amidst chaos and strife are not, as I suspected, lucky winners in some genetic lottery but rather people who discovered that BS is optional and then took the time to do something about it.
At first blush this might seems easier said than done. But, when it’s broken into steps, it’s not that difficult.
The first step is acceptance. You have to just face the situation head-on and come to terms with it. Until you accept what you’re confronted with, you simply can’t move forward.
The next step is to understand that while you might not have the power to change your situation, you do have control over how you respond to it. Whatever happens next is entirely up to you. You might not like the choices you’re faced with, but it does mean that you’ll enjoy a happier and more productive outcome if you take action rather than wallowing in stagnant self-pity.
Hard science states that our reactions to stress are largely biological. When we experience stress or danger – real or imagined – our “fight-or-flight” response is activated. This causes some dramatic physical reactions. The respiratory rate increases and blood is diverted from the digestive tract to the muscles and limbs. Pupils dilate, sight becomes more focused, awareness intensifies, impulses quicken, and pain thresholds heighten. Our perception of time seems to slow down. In this state, our ability to creatively come up with options or alternatives is diminished as we become more rigid, less resilient, and focus on short-term survival, not long-term consequences.
It is important to keep in mind that our fight-or-flight response was designed to protect us from the wild animals and enemies that lurked in the jungles our forefathers inhabited. In situations when our actual physical survival is threatened, fight-or-flight is a very good protective measure. I can vouch for that personally. As a rather angry hippopotamus was tearing me apart, the surging adrenaline and other stress hormones pumping through my body enabled me to survive.
The tricky thing is that in most cases, once our fight-or-flight response is activated, we can’t run away and we can’t fight. When faced with a “hippo” – whether it’s in the form of a cranky co-worker, a stalled car, or a missed commitment – we can either choose to face and accept them or act or respond in ways that are actually counterproductive to our survival. The key is to utilize the beneficial effects of stress, like heightened awareness and mental acuity, to manage our own moods and influence the moods of others.
One way to consistently do so is to adopt the BS is Optional Approach to Life.
Here’s a tried and tested and incredibly effective five-step process:
1) Center yourself. Take a few deep breaths. Other people’s moods and emotions can trigger yours. If you lose your center and get caught up in an unproductive mood, you’ll also lose the opportunity to make a difference.
2) Avoid unproductive moods. Remember, in a high-pressure situation, you can’t really afford to be in an unproductive mood, as it probably won’t take you where you want to go.
3) Think about how others might perceive you. Given that moods are often contagious, ask yourself, “What mood am I evoking in others? Do people want to play with me? Is the way I’m showing up, opening or closing possibilities?”
4) Ask yourself if the story you’re caught up in is taking you where you want to go. If it is, great! (Reminder: Ensure that there is some substance to your story. Naively telling yourself that “these things always seem to work themselves out and everything is going to be okay” may not work so well for you in the long run.) If your story isn’t working out in your best interest, find one that will. Remember, you don’t have to get it 100 percent right. The future is and always will be unknown. Useful questions to ask yourself as you put together your new narrative include:
• Why am I caught up in my current story? (“Usual suspects” include: heroic suffering; feeling out of your depth; feeling superior; needing to be right and someone or something else to be wrong; covering your backside.)
• What are the facts?
• Just how much drama am I adding to the situation•and how’s that working for me?
5) Rewrite the ending. Now that you’ve removed the drama and can clearly see just the facts, adjust the story you’ve been telling yourself and begin moving forward into your new story.
An experienced business coach with a diverse global background, Paul Templer has worked in a range of fast-paced, highly competitive business environments; specializing in leadership and high performance team development, conflict resolution, and guiding organizations so that they can better navigate the turbulent waters of the ever-changing business world.
Paul is also a sought-after keynote speaker, entertaining, teaching and inspiring audiences from all walks of life to create the lives they want – one decision at a time. Before publishing his autobiography What’s Left of Me, in which he explores his near-death experience with a rogue hippo that ultimately forced him to rebuild his life and career, Templer co-authored Success Simplified with Stephen Covey et al.
A dedicated husband and father, Templer and his family live in Michigan where they have established the Templer Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting disabled and terminally ill children and veterans and their families living with PTSD.
For more information about the book and author, please visit www.paultempler.com.