words + intention
The holidays can be a tricky time for many people. Our brains tend to suggest that the past was better than it actually was, and that the future is bleaker than it will likely be. And because everything—EVERYTHING—is focused on holiday stuff right now, it’s easy to feel frazzled and overwhelmed.
With that in mind, I want to offer you some tips to better navigate the season; these ideas are designed to help you get back to your center, regardless of what’s happening around you.
1-One word. I want you to choose one word, consciously and intentionally, that will serve as your personal bumper system throughout each day/week (or whatever time frame you select). The word you choose will serve to re-orient you in a moment-to-moment style. But it’s not just a matter of uttering the word; you’ll need to feel into the word you choose to expand its power and effectiveness in every interaction.
Let me give you an example: Maybe the word you choose on day one of this exercise is “peace.” Later that morning at a staff meeting, you note one particular colleague is behaving passive aggressively toward you. You’ve had differences in the past, but your attention is drawn to him over and over and you can feel your ire rising. In the interest of productive meetings, you choke back your anger and retreat into seemingly endless internal dialogue about how he behaved and how you let him get away with it. You likely even find “allies” in this situation, co-workers that sympathize and side with you. Lines are drawn (mentally) and you rehearse ad nauseam what you might have said to stop what was happening. Of course at the next staff meeting, you’re locked and loaded. Just waiting for him to cross that line. Again. And on it goes.
Now let’s put our word to work here. You chose the word peace, but peace exited the building as soon as you needed it. Instead, you hurdled into office drama that you didn’t invite or initiate. So what might you have done differently?
The moment the energy changed (offender Number One went to work on your emotional safety by parrying and dodging throughout the meeting) you might have taken a deep breath, gone back to your word and considered, “How could ‘peace’ work in this situation? What’s my most peaceful possible response right in this moment?”
Now this does warrant the intentional pause (remember, we’re responding, not reacting) a skill which takes some time to develop, so just be patient with yourself.
In the scenario we’re examining, the “most peaceful response” might be something like this: “Hey Phil, it feels to me like you’re trying to make some point here, but I’m sort of confused on what that is. Can you help me better understand what you’re trying to say?” It’s critical that you come from a place of pure curiosity, not confrontation, as you pose the question, however. At that moment, it’s very easy to slide into attack and defend. So check that before you engage. Posing the question from a space of genuine curiosity begins a conversation of which you are 100 percent responsible for 50 percent of the total.
I know, I know. It does feel easier at times to simply blast a person for his bad behavior and move on. And perhaps there are times when that is the best or quickest solution to mitigate an issue. But we’re looking here at how to keep you in your most peaceful place emotionally, so you’re in charge of how you’re experiencing each moment. We want to get off the blame train and take responsibility for our reactions to what others are doing or not doing.
2-Re-heated mashed potatoes are lethal.
A mashed potato patty with scrambled eggs, your cheese of choice and served over a bed of spinach is a super healthy and yummy breakfast.
But mashed potatoes heated in pan maintain their heat longer than eggs do. MUCH longer, in fact. The moment of contact will drop you to your knees as you attempt to dislodge the searing hot dense patty, which suddenly has the adhesion strength of Gorilla Glue, from your mouth while making indecipherable animalistic noises through your nose.
It’s not a pretty sight and should this happen to you, I hope it happens away from any witnesses and out of earshot of your mother, grandmother, and anyone you might hold in high esteem.
You’ve been warned. Consider it a public service reminder and you’re welcome.
personal development and Equus coach, former Penn State journalism instructor and professional writer.