We all have those days – you’re in back-to-back meetings from the morning until evening and you don’t even have time in your day to do an important piece of work you’ll be presenting tomorrow. You have a family member who is facing a crisis, so you are texting back and forth about it all day long. After giving your all caring for everyone else’s needs, at the end of the day, your boss asks you a question about your presentation that seems like it’s a criticism. Or someone you are counting on to finish their part of the presentation returns something that isn’t fully ready. Or your significant other calls to say they can’t help you in the way they had promised that evening.
In any of these scenarios, you’ve run out of bandwidth yet things still keep coming at you and going awry. What happens next? You lose your patience! You get emotionally hijacked and react.
Here are 5 ways to have patience when you are running out of bandwidth:
1.Slow down your breathing so you prevent getting to a point where you are so on edge.
Your mind follows your breath, so the fastest way to do this is to slow down your breathing. Breathe 6 times a minute (inhale to the count of 5, exhale to the count of 5 and do this for 1-3 minutes). This breath will reconnect the emotional and rational parts of your brain which get disconnected when you are stressing out. You’ll be able to discern what’s truly important and worth getting upset over, and what isn’t. And you’ll enter the situation calm and relaxed.
2.Stay in your power. When you experience that something important to you is becoming out of your control, it can make you feel powerless.
You lose your patience because you focus your energy on the aspects of the situation that you can’t control, like what the other person is doing or not doing, or how people viewing your presentation the next day will judge you. When you focus on what you can’t control you leak your power. When you focus on what other people might think of you, you give away your power.
Take back your power! Start by asking the question: “Where’s my power?” Find your power by doing this exercise: Draw a circle with a line through the middle of it and on the top half write down all the things that you can control (I call this your 50%.) Then below the line write down all the aspects of the situation you can’t control (the other 50%). Any time you focus your attention on matters that are below the line, you leak your power.
Just take 100% responsibility for everything that you can control in your 50%.
When you focus on what you CAN control you will stay in your flow. You’ll notice you have options and you’ll be less aggravated by other people.
When you feel an inner sense of resourcefulness and someone change’s a plan on you last minute, you’re not so aggravated because you know you have alternatives.
3. Don’t take things personally. After you work hard and do for everyone else all day, then your boss says something that sounds critical to you. It feels like you were gut punched, you get a defensive tone. That’s because you took their comment personally. You react because you made their behavior mean something about you. Instead,
-Stay focused on the objective facts of the situation not your negative forecast. Notice that when you lose your patience it’s because you carry out the negative implications of the frustrating situation to its full extent – you imagine you’ll bomb your presentation and set your promotion back 5 years. You’re activating that catastrophic ending when it hasn’t even happened yet (and probably never will!)
-Stay focused on the facts of the situation, don’t put your personal frame on it.
Notice if you take other people’s behavior to mean something about you. If your boss has a dismissive tone, it may be that they don’t understand what you’ve put together because they are not aware of all the data, and you need to connect the dots for them. It may be that they are overwhelmed and are reacting to anything that is outside their familiar activities. In this scenario your boss’s behavior may have had little to do with you. If you told any one of these alternative stories, you’d be in problem solving mode not losing your patience.
4) Decide who you want to be. You get to decide who you will show up as, so set that intention. Take out your phone and go through your pictures until you find one that captures the qualities of who you want to show up as. Make that photo your screensaver or post it up in the area you work or live in the most. If you can’t find a photo, then simply write down 3 words that describe who you want to be. Be intentional. Make it your purpose as you go throughout your day to be that person – no matter what happens. That’s within your 50%!
5) Project yourself into the future when the problem doesn’t exist. Here’s something you can do in your own imagination instead of getting upset about situations that feel out of your control. Take a pause and think about a time in the future that the current situation will be all resolved, and it won’t have any emotional charge for you anymore. Take yourself to that future moment in your mind. Give yourself that sense of perspective. And allow your future self to reassure you that the situation will work out in a way where you will be ok.
Sharon has a new book out In Your Power: React Less, Regain Control, Raise Others