- Our lives are comprised of collective experiences, and ONE experience does not define the whole. Over the course of a lifetime, one experience is like a drop in a pool of experiences. We shouldn’t give one experience more importance than is truly warranted.
- Consider the concept of impermanence; nothing is fixed or permanent. The same is true regarding negative situations. Regardless of how bad it may seem, we must maintain the understanding that what we are feeling is temporary, and that the discomfort won’t last forever. Keep in mind the saying, “this too shall pass.”
- Know the difference between discomfort and catastrophe. We shouldn’t assign extreme values to normal emotions (i.e., catastrophize). It is acceptable to acknowledge that we are upset (sad, angry, frustrated, etc.), but to use the word “devastated” would be an exaggeration.
- Don’t overgeneralize. Experiencing a failure does not mean we ARE a failure, nor does it mean that we will continue to fail. Additionally, just because one situation has gone bad, we shouldn’t generalize that everything else is bad (e.g., “My girlfriend left me . . . my entire life sucks.”).
- Most of us experience more good than bad in our lives. Therefore, when facing failures and disappointments, we should remind ourselves of our competencies and previous accomplishments. We should learn to acknowledge the good things in our lives, so that we don’t place a disproportionate focus on the bad.
Employ Selective Engagement
Selective engagement means consciously selecting our activities and personal interactions. In other words, we can selectively engage in the interactions and activities that will provide the most benefit. Additionally, when it comes to managing conflict, it means choosing which battles to fight, rather than fighting them all.Example: The night before a final exam, a college student learns that her roommate has been spreading rumors about her. Understandingly, she is upset by this violation of trust. At this point, there are two external demands which she must consider. She can confront her roommate, which carries the risk of a heightened emotional event, which could affect her ability to concentrate. Or she can study for her exam which will facilitate her accomplishment of a higher goal. Both choices involve an opportunity cost. However, considering economy, she should select the option that provides the greater benefit – which is studying for the exam.Demands that involve negative interactions will drain our inner resources without offering a benefit. We should therefore look for ways to minimize or eliminate the time we spend interacting with negative people.
Practice Verbal Restraint
During conflict, take time to collect your thoughts. Don’t be provoked into emotional responses. Think before you speak, and say only what is necessary. The goal of any discussion or argument should be resolution, so if you see that things are not moving toward resolution, or communication is devolving into an emotional shouting match, conserve your resources by disengaging.Additionally, when it comes to communication, consider the fact that sometimes less is more. At times, it is better to listen and consider, versus providing a rebuttal or having the last word.
“Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.” ~Dalai Lama~
At times it is important to focus on allowing instead of controlling. You will expend much less energy when you allow things to unfold naturally (i.e. patience and acceptance) than attempting to micromanage each and every detail.If something isn’t working – i.e., a relationship or goal-oriented activity – simply stop. Allow the situation to exist as it is without trying to force it to happen. You can’t control anything (or anyone) outside of yourself, so it is a waste of inner resources to continue your efforts.
When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, take the time to slow things down. Think of the cache (temporary memory) of a computer. As you browse the internet, the cache saves each new page so that it can be quickly accessed once you visit again. However, as the cache reaches capacity, the browser speed slows down. The only way to remedy this situation is to clear the cache. As we go about our daily activities, we add more and more items to our inner cache. In the same way that the computer’s browser speed is affected, we also can become overloaded. Taking a time-out for meditation, deep breathing, or even a power nap, will help us to clear our mental cache.