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Tips & Tactics for Personal Development

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Emotional Tripwires

In an earlier post (12/13/2011) I referred to the Golden Moment – that instant of time between our decisions and our actions – that allows us to change our habitual ways of responding to people and circumstances in our lives. When we have time to think clearly about deciding on doing or saying something, we can usually avoid trouble. But what about the times when we don’t see the emotional trip wires in our path? What about those times when our emotions outrun our thoughts and we do or say something harmful?

The solution I have found is to pay attention to those times when my emotions are aroused – when I’m reacting more from feeling than thought. I stop and pay attention to how emotionally aroused I am as I go through a day. I usually find that I experience a range of emotions – from calm to alert to irritated – all in the course of a single day. I have learned that I have predictable reactions to different types of events and people. Disorganized and unfocused meetings usually make me irritable. Unplanned changes to ongoing projects tend to make me feel stressed. Taking time to discuss how to better manager a difficult project or individual usually makes me feel more in control of my workload

By regularly observing how I tend to react to these situations, I have learned where my emotional trip wires lurk.

I think we’re less likely to be blindsided by our emotions when we can recognize how active they are at any point in our day and act accordingly. If you know when you are emotionally out of balance you can delay taking actions or saying things that you may regret later. But if we don’t learn where our emotional trip wires are, we will likely continue to be tripped up by our immediate emotional reactions that can cause us so much trouble and also cause others to think less of us.

So if you take some time to learn your own emotional range in time you will be able to see the trip wires that so often cause you to react in ways that often defeat you. Your emotions may still surprise you and at times get the best of you. But you’ll be better able to manage them instead of allowing them to continue to trip you up and embarrass you.


The golden moment when change is possible

There is a moment in every action we take where we can choose what to do next. It’s the seconds between hearing a critical comment and making a response. It’s the gap between having a thought and expressing it. It’s the time between making a decision and acting.

I call this the Golden Moment.

Once this moment is past, we can’t go back. We’ve reacted in anger, said something hurtful, or done something that can’t be undone. Life has no undo button.

Yet in this moment there is immense freedom. For it is in this moment that we can choose a different course, different words, different actions. But very often we fail to recognize this moment, and therefore we fail to use it for our advantage.

How can we make the most of this moment?

First, recognize that it exists. We always have a chance to change our course.

Second, learn to enjoy the moment. Take a little longer to respond. Hang out in this moment and really experience it. Stop the momentum of your thoughts and emotions and let them settle.

Lastly, treasure these moments. These are where you can make course corrections. You don’t have to react the way you “always” do. And when you miss a moment, don’t beat yourself up. Realize that you missed that particular moment and move on. There will be others. Life is rarely a one-shot deal.

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