Have you ever noticed how much you can turn a molehill into a mountain? Recently I’ve noticed two areas of my life where I create unnecessary drama, and I am working on stopping this. The first area is the swirl and hysterics I can create about what may or may not happen. This usually happens when I confuse the actual facts from the spin I put on the facts. It is amazing how my mind can twist fairly neutral situations into huge dramas. For example, a client may miss a phone session and not contact me for a week or more. While there are many rationale explanations for this, I find myself reviewing our last session to see if I did something that might have offended the client. Pretty soon I am convinced they want top end our coaching relationship, yet when I do hear from them I find out they had a family emergency and are very apologetic about not letting me know.
To help me avoid this crazy-making thinking, I try to remember the insight from Eckart Tolle in his book Oneness with All Life. “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Separate them from the situation which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the fact, and here are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts.” This reminds me to look only at what actually happened and not add underlying meaning until and unless I confirm that information. My mantra is from the old TV series Dragnet – Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.
The second area of drama has to do with making a mistake and not being perfect. I can really get myself into quite a froth when I discover that I have made an avoidable error. My first reaction is to dwell on it, replay the circumstances over and over in my mind, and ask anyone who will listen how bad they think it is. Of course this just makes the original issue much bigger and keeps it alive, and I rationally know that, but it is so tempting to indulge in lots of replay and punishment.
My strategy for dealing with mistakes has two steps. When I discover the mistake, instead of feeling lousy I try and shift into debrief mode. Why did this occur? What could I do in the future to make sure it does not happen again? What do I need to do to rectify the situation? I find that moving into action right away helps me avoid the mental swirl stage. If after I take these action steps I am still tempted to beat myself up, I try to find a way to chuckle and tell myself “Oh well, I am human, There is my human-ness showing up again..” After all, we are human. Yes, we should have high standards and do our best to avoid making mistakes. However, they happen. Why do our thoughts tell us we are different and we should be perfect? The better approach is to debrief, accept, and move on.
I remember when I first tried this strategy. Tough as it was, I resisted the temptation to tell others about my oops. I made the necessary correction and then dropped it. What surprised me the most was that no one seemed to care – they did not ask me to tell and retell my story of woe. The sun came up the next day and life went on as before. The only difference was that I avoided draining my energy and inflicting my pain on people around me. Try this approach next time you make a mistake and enjoy the freedom that comes from avoiding the drama!