Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Three Ways to Keep Calm

“Keep calm and carry on.”

Popular saying based on a WWII morale-boosting poster in Great Britain

I do not feel like writing.  It has been a strange day.  Not horrible, just a lot of little things have gone wrong all day.  Still, now that I’m writing I’m remembering an incident.  About four years ago, I made a deal with myself to not complain no matter what happened.  Then during that time, I lost a job, got in a car crash and had all kinds of other things go wrong.  But the funny thing was that because I had stopped complaining, I hadn’t really noticed the things that had gone wrong.  I was pretty calm most of the time.
Oh, I noticed the facts.  For example, I would tell people that I lost a job or that my car crashed or that I was in pain because of the car crash.  I would tell people the facts of my life, but I didn’t put any kind of judgment on the events.  I stayed positive.  And it wasn’t even that hard.  As long as I committed to sharing facts instead of feelings around events, it was easy to be positive.
Then, for whatever reason, I broke the spell.  I started complaining about things.  I don’t even know why.  Maybe I thought what I was doing was too unrealistic, too Pollyannish.  Now, I notice how much I complain, how quick I am to slide into negativity and a lack of gratitude.  I don’t know what happened, but I lost focus on what was good in life.
When I’m working with job seekers who have a negative story in their past, such as being fired, having problems with customers or coworkers, or having a bad boss, I offer following ideas on how to “spin” the story:
1.     Stay calm.
2.     Stick to facts not feelings.
3.     State the lesson learned or the behavior changed.

I think these principles apply to life as well as to job interviews.
            First, it helps if I stay calm.  Calm is the opposite of fear, stress and anger.   When people say, “Calm down,” they are telling someone to not be afraid, stressed out or angry.  Stress is usually a mixture of fear and anger.   Half the relationship problems I have ever had were because I did not stay calm.    When I am calm, I can handle problems with people or events with clarity and peace. 
Second, it helps me to state facts, not feelings.  This means I take emotion and judgment out of the picture.  Or if I do have a judgment about someone or something, then I express it as my personal judgment, not a fact.  Opinions cannot be proven.  Only facts can.   For example, I have no way of knowing if someone likes me or dislikes me.  All I can observe are behaviors. 
As a career coach, I sometimes dealt with clients who said they wanted a job, but they wouldn’t do what was required.  I didn’t know if they were lazy or even afraid.  It didn’t matter.  All I needed to do was mention the behaviors.  Or I needed to let the person figure it out on his or her own. 
I once knew a woman who worked at a fast-food restaurant even though she was in her mid-20’s and was a single parent.  She said she wanted more out of life and I knew she was capable.  I offered her ideas and help.  She would always say, “Okay, tomorrow.”  Tomorrow never seemed to come and I finally said, “Let me know when you’re ready.”  I haven’t heard from her since.  This kind of thing used to make me sad or angry, but when I just observed the facts, I didn’t need to get upset or judge her.  I was able to let it go and stay calm.
Finally, I have to remember the lessons learned from past events.  And the only evidence of that is changed behavior.  Changed behavior is the hallmark of wisdom and maturity.  It is the only real evidence of personal, spiritual, intellectual or professional growth.  There are a lot of people who remember lessons but it hasn’t changed their behavior.  Many of us repeat the same behaviors for years.  We know certain behaviors are self-defeating, but we continue anyway.   The reasons for this are more than I want to go into in this blog, but I firmly believe that intellectual assent is not enough.  I must do things differently to demonstrate growth.
What does all of this have to do with Purpose?  When I’m calm, I can be in Purpose, and when I’m in Purpose, I am calm.  I also don’t let my emotions override or distract me from Purpose. I have work to do.  Finally, the more I am in Purpose and stay focused, the more my behavior changes positively.  This creates wisdom and personal growth. 
Writing these blogs, trying to reach my goal of 150, has been a challenge and honestly, I don’t often feel like writing.  Curiously, when I get past the feeling, when I can sit down and calmly begin writing, I write even more than I’d planned.  I’m where I’m supposed to be doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  And I always will be, as long as I Get Started and Keep Going…and stay calm.