Were you ever doing perfectly well (even wonderfully!), only to have an upsetting interaction, phone call, or email that instantly “ruined” your day? I know I have. I recently received a phone call from my agent telling me that a client was refusing to pay me for a job I had already performed, making all kinds of excuses and trying to justify withholding payment.
I found myself getting irate — taking their unprofessionalism personally and feeling attacked, saying, “How dare they mess with my money?” While I had a valid reason to be upset, nothing is worth getting that worked up over.
It’s one thing for someone to go back on a commitment. It is another to allow that person to steal our joy. I literally gave away my good mood for free, and there is no price tag we can put on our peace and happiness. It is invaluable.
I learned a huge lesson that day. I saw how little control I had over my well-being. I gave someone else the keys. I knew I never wanted to feel this way again. While none of us will go through life without experiencing hurts and frustrations, it’s important to embrace the fact that we are responsible for our reactions to upsetting events. In other words, most of us need to bulk up our emotional muscles and emotional fitness. Here’s how:
Give yourself emotional timeouts. If you’re a parent, you’re familiar with giving your children a “timeout.” Sometimes adults need a timeout, too. Rather than acting on emotional impulses and saying or doing something we will later regret, we can resist the temptation and see our reaction as an opportunity to grow and develop character.
There will always be opportunities to lose our temper and get upset, but when we feel our emotions rising, we can choose not to act on them and to stay calm instead. It’s like going to the gym when you don’t want to, just because you know how good you’ll feel afterward.
Take the high road. Forgive. When someone is rude to us and we don’t engage, we pass the test. When we are willing to take responsibility even though it’s hard, we grow up faster and build strong character that attracts abundance into our lives.
We will always be tempted to overreact in the areas where we are the weakest. These situations shine a light on our own limitations. It is easy to love people who are loving, but the challenge is to love those who are not. They teach us how to love better and be stronger. Forgive them. They are building your character.
Don’t get on board. It’s hard to overlook an insult, keep a positive attitude, and be patient when nothing seems to be going our way. We think if those rude people would just stop being rude, everything would be great. But when we allow ourselves to realize that a rude person or upsetting situation is perfect for us because it allows us to change for the better, we take back our power.
It may not feel very pleasant to do one hundred burpees at the gym with your personal trainer, but think how strong your body will look and feel if you commit to exercising your physical muscles this way regularly. You know when you’re sweating to death and out of breath during your workout and not really enjoying it that much, but afterward you feel great? The same applies to our emotional workouts, too.
So, the next time somebody does you wrong and you want to get upset, send an unloving text or email, scream at the top of your lungs, or completely shut down, try instead to take a deep breath and see it as an opportunity to heal an old wound and grow. With practice, you will begin to become less and less reactive and feel a greater sense of peace and freedom.
Excerpted from the book The Full Spirit Workout. ©2021 by Kate Eckman. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
Kate Eckman is the author of The Full Spirit Workout and a Columbia University– certified executive leadership coach. She leverages her experience as a well-known communications, performance, and mindfulness expert, accomplished entrepreneur, and elite athlete to equip leaders with the tools, methodology, and energetic boost they need to excel. Visit her online at kateeckman.tv.