As discussed last week, using the foundational skills of self-awareness gives you greater insights into your strengths and weaknesses. Having that knowledge allows you to manage your life with a much higher degree of intentionality and purpose. Hope is not a plan though; it takes strategy to progress forward in becoming the best version of yourself that you envision. Below is a short list of high-impact habits that will allow you to make significant strides in your self-management pursuits.
· Become friends with your future self, the CEO of Your Life, Inc.- We tend to want to mentally time travel, normally it’s going backward in thinking about different choices we would have made at various earlier parts of life. Don’t look backward, that’s not where you’re going. We can still satisfy the urge to transport ourselves to a different time in life by envisioning our life in various points of time on a future horizon. By going forward, we are able to develop a constructive habit of looking through the lens of our future self to gain better perspective on what we should be doing in present day. Think of it like Ebeneezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning after being scared straight by the ghost of Christmas Future. He was ecstatic at having a chance to set things right in his life. Like Scrooge, we can help insure we never veer too far off course if we have a working familiarity of our future self. Once you develop that habit of effectively seeing things from the perspective of the future you, it’s like having a wise older friend or relative to bounce things off of. Another aspect of looking at your life like a CEO of a company is it allows you to take a more objective look at how you are spending your time. Are the activities you’re doing in alignment with where you see yourself going? Are the people you are spending the most time with elevating you or holding you back? Just like the CEO of a company has to often make tough decisions, your CEO role calls for an objective outlook that best serves the long-term strategic objectives of the company, ‘Your Life, Inc.’. Having a pragmatic outlook to your life and the current habits, choices, activities, and network of people will allow you to see things through a more factual lens that isn’t distorted with biases and sentimentality of “things have always been this way and I’m too old to change”. Fact: Today is the youngest you will ever be for the rest of your life and your history is not your destiny!
· Rule #1, don’t panic. Rule #3, there is no Rule #2. -As you surely know from living on planet earth, especially in the past couple of years, stress and anxiety is the price of admission. Experiencing these emotions are normal parts of everyday life. What we don’t want to happen is to allow that stress and anxiety to escalate to panic. When panic enters the picture, rational thought and reasoning exit the scene. Our brain diverts the thoughts back into the emotional part of our brain where rational thought is nowhere to be found. Being in that state of panic leaves us incapacitated to solve the problem causing us the panic. Thankfully, by having awareness of the emotion of panic as it’s rising up, we can stop it in its tracks and utilize a self-management approach to neutralize the threat. By focusing our attention on the specific tasks that need to happen that are within our control, it allows us to channel our thoughts back into the rational part of our brain and think through the problem. It’s a thought process along the lines of “Ok, I feel myself starting to panic…what needs to happen next to start solving this problem?”. You are acknowledging that your body is having a natural emotional response to a threat, whether it’s lost cellphone or a potential grizzly bear attack and recognizing the feeling without allowing yourself to have a reaction to it. It’s manually taking charge of your emotions in the moment instead of letting them go on autopilot. One approach to focus your attention in the moment is using the acronym ‘PAUSE’. Perceive, Assess, Understand, Strategize and Evaluate. These steps can be done quickly, and they immediately give a rational framework to build around our situation in order to block panic from taking hold.
· Use your “install update and restart option”. We all come equipped with an amazingly effective, but often overlooked, secret weapon at self-management. Consider any of these situations and see if you can relate to experiencing them. Your focus is wandering, unwelcome thoughts are distracting you from what you’re trying to focus on, stress is creeping in, you can feel anxiety building, or any other scenario where you want to hit the ‘refresh’ button on your current mental space. This is where the power of mindful breathing is amazingly effective. All sorts of things can trigger stress in our day, our body deals with stress the old-fashioned way it’s designed to…” initiate fight or fight launch sequence!” When we notice these feelings, we can counter them with deep breathing which triggers the ‘rest and digest’ system and stimulates relaxation by taking in more oxygen and lowering your heart rate. You are manually sending the ‘all good ‘signal to your body and taking it off of high alert. Try it right now and you’ll feel the effects. 3 second inhalation through your nose, pause, 3 second exhalation through your mouth. Repeat for 30 seconds and you will feel noticeably calmer and more focused. Develop the habit of repeating as necessary.
This concludes the first part of the EQ series of Bar Talk dealing with Personal Competencies. Next week we will look at the first of the two components of Social Competencies: social awareness.