When in doubt, do the thing that’s hardest. Our intuition is a beautiful gift and serves us faithfully in most situations. However, when you’re freaked out, it’s close to impossible to hear. When it feels like the world is ending, the rules have been scrapped and monkeys are conducting cymbal practice in your head, a good rule of thumb is to do the opposite of what you really want to do.
Here’s an example: you just got rear-ended and are getting out of your car to talk to the guy who did it. Adrenalin is pouring through your veins faster than champagne, and your heart’s doing a samba double-time. The last thing you want to do is to stop, be still and take breath. Every instinct you have is screaming at you to destroy the thing that just tried to destroy you. Now when you’re racing across the tundra to protect your family from marauding invaders, this is an excellent response. Dealing with a guy who is really sorry and just wasn’t paying attention while you’re both in a busy intersection? Less helpful. Hence, the bizarro-world response to your instincts. You might want to pound and crush, but a deep breath and centering will probably get you further.
So, if when you’re freaked out, do something that calms you down, lowers your heart rate and gets blood running into the prefrontal cortex (the reasoning as opposed to the lizard part of your brain). If you’re panicked, you know you’re heading in the right direction when your choices deepen your breathing, relaxes your shoulders and unties the knots in your stomach.
Now if you’re down, the opposite is true. Lost your job three weeks ago and all you want to do is burrow into your person-cave and binge-watch House of Lies? Is it tempting? Of course! Way more enjoyable than beginning the forced-march of networking coffee dates during which you’ve got to put a pretty face on your inadequacies? Hells yeah! The thing is though, eight hours of House of Lies will only leave you with sincere appreciation of Robin Wright’s acting abilities and a not-so-fresh feeling in your soul. The coffee dates? Even though the first few suck with the intensity of a black hole, even when they’re with the kindest, most supportive of your fans (Which is who you should always start with, btw. Save the high-stakes informational interviews with strangers after you’ve healed a little and have some positive momentum – tip from me to you), getting your focus onto something outside of your woes is just the kind of movement that will help you dissipate your funk.
The same is true for other times when you’re low-energy and stuck. If you’ve been doing the same thing for a while and don’t like the results, and this new choice makes you feel energized, even to the point of discomfort, if it feels like you’re insane for taking such a brash step, or like you’re being ripped from your bed and dumped into a deep mountain lake at 6:00am on a June morning, it’s probably the right one to make.
Now, is this a cure-all solution for every situation? Noperooni, my dear friend. Instincts are great. They’ve kept us alive for a while now; and your intuition trumps any advice anyone else gives you – even mine. But if following your instincts isn’t leading you to the results you want and you’re having trouble tuning into your still small voice, give this opposite stuff a try. It’s gotten me out of some pretty bad scrapes and into some pretty awesome situations.
What new, opposite-responses can you use for situations you don’t know how to handle?
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