THE RUSH HOUR GRIDLOCK SCENARIO
For the sake of this example, you are stuck in morning rush hour traffic:
How do you feel about it? Angry and frustrated probably. You are going to be late and you’re aware of all the things that now won’t go smoothly. Your head is now full of a maelstrom of negative thought.
Can anyone here control the thoughts that pop into their heads? No you can’t. The standard response is a counter-thought (such as “no that is not helpful for me to feel that”) but this doesn’t work because your blood is already up!
You cannot argue with a thought that has a tidal wave of emotion powering it!
So don’t argue with the thought you’re going to be late. Agree with it! Yes I’m going to be late. I’ve every right to feel annoyed!
Now ask this question that works anywhere: What is this an opportunity for?
You now bring in to play a simple skill you’re already using every day, but you tend to keep reserved for tasks and lectures, it is your attention. Your attention is absolutely crucial to emotional intelligence. What has your attention has your emotions, your thoughts and your behaviour. Your attention is not just for tasks and lectures, it should be under your conscious direction every waking minute. If you don’t, it will go looking for trouble because that’s what it’s evolved to do – (that’s how you survived on the African Savannah!)
So here you are in your car. What is it an opportunity for?
In any situation, action, thought and emotion need to sing from the same songsheet. And the conductor of the choir is your attention. Your attention however needs a positive incentive – what’s the payoff of giving this my attention, because if there’s a payoff, your emotions will fall in line. This works for any task, no matter how dull.
You’re now practising the discipline of acceptance, the ability to maximise the opportunities in every single situation. It will give you an edge over Fred Bloggs, because Fred Bloggs is wasting his energy resenting what isn’t there. In any unfavourable environment, practise the discipline of acceptance.
So going back to our example of being gridlocked:
This is not great and I have the right to be annoyed about it!
So what is this an opportunity for? Meditation? Phoning a friend? Notation?
What’s the payoff? Can I suggest getting to work in a much healthier state?
Give this opportunity your full attention, be aware of the payoff in doing it, and thought, feelings and behaviour will be transformed into powerful allies.