Sometimes, our thoughts and our emotions just … run rampant.
It doesn’t make us bad or irrational people. It makes us human.
And if we don’t have a way of seizing control back when it feels like all control might be lost, we are on a path to trouble. We’re not there yet, but we’re charging toward it.
Because thoughts and emotions mean nothing without corresponding words and actions. The key is to nip negative, destructive thoughts and emotions in the bud before they get translated into words or actions we might later regret.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution or method for doing this, of course.
I have a way that sometimes works for me, so I want to share in case it (or some derivative of it) might work for you.
It’s simple: I say “Screw that!” and force my thoughts in the opposite direction.
Here are a few real-life examples I’ve dealt with recently …
I’ve been assigned a project at work: I’m supposed to develop an online course for a subject that I myself am still learning about.
Inferiority complex has gripped me hard.
It’s made me hesitant to start — hesitant to even think about the project, because I worry I won’t even know how to put together a good outline, let alone flesh it out into a full course.
I’m in a weird place of excess pride and excess humility. My vanity has me afraid to put something out there that will make me look silly, and I think I’ll look silly because of how under-qualified I feel, and–
I need to pull that pride and humility back into the middle.
First of all, I wasn’t asked to create a course for experts. This is a beginner-to-intermediate course.
My anxiety might be justified if I were supposed to be teaching experts something new. I’m not. I know plenty about this topic that will help beginners get going, and the process of further research and lesson development will give me plenty of information and case studies to benefit even more advanced folks.
My extreme humility — my meekness — has been preventing me from seeing this. What I need is to embrace true humility by thinking about the people I can help, not that ones I can’t.
See how that bumps right up into pride? But not the excess pride — the extreme vanity — that worries about how I might look or what someone who the course won’t even be designed for might say. I need to embrace the pride that drives me forward, with confidence, to work hard, do my best, and put a good course together that will help people.
This is the mindset I need. It will drive a positive next action. It will allow me to be better now.
Saying Screw that! to myself jolted me out of my sorry, pathetic mindset and into a purposeful, actionable one. That’s being better.
Another example …
A small and somewhat silly one …
I was looking at a recipe the other night. It was a different kind of dish. It seemed like it would be hard to prepare, and take a while, and who knew what it would really taste like, and–
I put in the time to get the ingredients. I followed the recipe step by step. The meal ended up being delicious, and I learned a few new cooking strategies in the process.
Good thing I didn’t let an uninvited flood of naysaying thought and emotions alter my plan.
Another example …
One of those impromptu, where-the-hell-did-this-come-from arguments cropped up with my wife. As usual, it was because of a miscommunication, so we were both justified in our own ways. It lingered for a very short time before she apologized, and came over and hugged me.
My initial gut reaction was to not relent. I was in the right here. I had been justified in my feelings. I should drag it out a little longer. Make a point. It would be weak to relent. I should show strength and–
I mean, seriously?
How overly prideful and just straight up idiotic is that kind of thinking?
I snapped myself right out of that silly thought process, turned around, and hugged her right back. Issue solved. Problem over. The rest of the night was pleasant and warm and wonderful, like 99.7% of our nights together are.
It was a good think she had true strength and maturity first, to show me the way.
But was I wrong to have those immediately counter-productive thoughts and emotions flood in? Not at all. I didn’t control them. I didn’t ask them to come. They showed up. Uninvited. It happens. Life.
What mattered was what I did next.
Because that I had control over.
And the first step was literally saying Screw that! to myself. The words meant little. But the immediate jolt of momentum they provided meant everything.
Because thanks to years of intentional practice viewing my thoughts and emotions along a binary spectrum like pride and humility, I’ve trained myself to identify which side I’m shaded to or slingshotted toward … and then simply make my next decision and action one that will bring me back toward the middle.
This process never fails me.
Sometimes it takes more than one decision and action to get back into balance. It might take two … or ten.
But the second or tenth can’t happen without the first.
I have to be better now, in this moment, before I can be better then, in the next one.
All we control is the now.
So if you feel a moment slipping away from you, say Screw that!
And be better now.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Rachel Hogue