Mindfulness and emotional intelligence have received plenty of extra attention in management education in recent years, due to their proven success in dealing with stress. Whether stress is caused by shrinking budgets at work or a growing family at home, one thing is certain – something has to give.
Most of us manage to avoid crisis by carefully manicuring the immediate issues that manifest as a consequence of larger underlying problems. But avoiding crisis at every turn does not give us the tools to deal with one when it inevitably occurs. Your boss snapping at you in front of a room full of colleagues could be the result of not asserting yourself into a better working relationship and your child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket could be the result of focusing too much on work and not your family.
In Nick Seneca Jankel’s new book, Switch On: Reconnect Your Heart, Rewire Your Brain, Remix Your World, he presents us with a new paradigm in which we can ignite our creative spirit with the new science of “Breakthrough”.
Admittedly ambitious, Jankel presents some interesting methods for dealing with life’s more stressful situations as he argues these situations should be looked at as opportunities for personal growth. Breaking points are inevitable as the world around us constantly changes as we adapt to new jobs, new lovers and new health problems. For every person there will come a time when their natural resilience will falter and their ability to dismiss their concerns and procrastinate on problems will fall dramatically short.
When faced with these situations that leave us irritated, in tears or obsessing over something, it is important to remember all of the signals that we are receiving when we reach these breaking points as they can provide us with the clues with which we will decipher the underlying opportunities inherent within a crisis. When these breaking points are reached there are three ways to turn:
- React. Most of us react to stressful situations by either swearing out loud immediately or whispering a profanity to ourselves shortly after. Failing that we clam up or try to leave a room to escape the problem. The fight or flight response is hardwired into us and we all present different responses to different situations. We can all remember throwing an adult tantrum or subjecting someone to the silent treatment. There is no point in regretting your reactions to these breaking point situations as these mindless behaviours have served their purpose for many years already. The secret is to switch on and notice the breaking point coming.
- Repress. We can also put our problems on a rocket ship and send them off to a cave on the moon in our mind. Once we have achieved complete ignorance of a problem it will go away surely. The problem is we can never really convince ourselves that the problem is gone as that would involve magic which is to suspend belief. What actually happens is that the problem will return at the most inconvenient time and will stop us in our tracks. Stress is the body and mind’s way of reacting to changes we are not comfortable with and it will manifest itself whether we like it or not. Maybe a few slices of chocolate, a few drinks or a cigarette will do the trick but be sure, there is always an outlet required. All of us have some form of addiction in one way or another and many of them are manageable in moderation but when we are at breaking point these tranquilizers or painkillers will keep us permanently trapped in the fight or flight survival trip.
- Remix. Engaging with a problem fully is not the option you were probably looking for but it is the only method for discovering the creative opportunities you have at your fingertips at any moment. By meeting life where it finds you and by avoiding your usual fight or flight responses, there is a treasure trove of learning opportunities within every near crisis. When is the best time to meet a problem head on? Never is usually the answer but probably at the point at which you realise a problem is holding you back physically, emotionally or financially.
Problems serve us. They show us the parts of our life that are fragmented and need to brought together to create a whole. They are a valuable resource, vital in fact. But logic cannot be overplayed in remixing a problem. To solve a true crisis, you must be aware of all of the effects including your physical reaction, your conflicting inner thoughts and your emotions.
To achieve this awareness of our body, mind and emotions we need to internalize the problem and this is the most difficult part as this involves owning the problem. Taking ownership is not about accepting the blame for a problem but it does involve putting a stop on blaming others. It feels good to blame your boss, to shame your child or to whinge about a friend, but although these behaviours will scratch the itch for now they will stop you from squaring your shoulders and looking for a real solution. To solve a problem we need to remove every other person from our thoughts as the only way to truly have a breakthrough is to view the problem only from our own perspective. To solve a problem on your own, you need to own the problem.