In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
1884 – 1962
Most of our days — and therefore most of our lives — are filled with routine, mundane events. But many days we encounter pivotal moments, also known as key moments, as well. These are moments fraught with emotional stress: disagreements with a co-worker or a loved one; being criticized by your boss, spouse or close friend; discovering your work or home routine will be significantly changed. The way we make choices during these key moments has a significant impact on our lives going forward.
By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve developed patterns for responding to pivotal moments. We react automatically in these situations, and common responses are to strike back, become defensive, or run from the problem. Most of the time, these reflexive responses aren’t healthy; people don’t make the best choices during moments of emotional stress.
I discovered a good method for dealing with these pivotal moments from the book Just Listen by Mark Goulston. He calls it the six step pause. Any time you feel you’re getting tense, angry, resentful, jealous, frightened — in other words, when you’re experiencing a pivotal moment — you should stop and practice the six step pause.
- Practice physical awareness. Become aware of physical responses like tensed muscles, sweating, or food cravings. Pinpoint them: notice where they show up in your body and identify them by name. This analysis engages the rational part of your brain, which gives you better control.
- Practice emotional awareness. Attach an emotion to the sensations you’re feeling. Are you angry, resentful, defensive? Labeling your feelings helps your rational brain overrule the emotional urge.
- Practice impulse awareness. Say to yourself, “This feeling makes me want to ____________.” Being aware of the impulse will help you resist it.
- Practice consequence awareness. Answer this question: “If I follow through with this urge, what is likely to happen?” If you identify the negative consequences of an emotional behavior, you’re less likely to act on it.
- Practice solution awareness. Complete this sentence: “A better thing to do would be ____________.” Take time to identify and offer yourself alternatives.
- Practice benefit awareness. Say to yourself, “If I do the better thing, the benefits will be __________.” You’re more likely to make a healthy choice if you focus on the rewards you’ll gain.
Think of those times when you tend to say or do things that create problems. When you find yourself in those situations, slow down and work through the six step pause. In particular, focus on the consequences of following your urges. If you honestly identify the consequences of an impulsive action, you’re less likely to indulge in negative behavior.
Keep this six step pause handy, and when you’re tempted to let your emotions hijack your actions, slow down and go through each step. Following this process will change your life for the better.
Life is the sum of all your choices.
1913 – 1960
Copyright © 2021 John Chancellor