Stressed? Try to Find the Long View

Situation

Let’s say I sell cars for a living (I don’t but the illustration will serve the purpose). Instead of selling a whole range of cars, I sell one car; a not-so-sexy little number that will safely and reliably get you from point A to point B. It also has a surprisingly low cost once we factor in maintenance and gas mileage. Now let’s say that another model that was clearly designed to compete with mine has popped up on the market. It has a lower initial cost, but overall cost of ownership makes it much more expensive after just a few months. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had two major buyers who were interested in buying my car for their fleet go the other way. I’m just coming off a strong growth year with my little car, so both times I entered the meeting with the buyer confident that I’d close the deal. Both times I was unceremoniously informed that the buyer was picking the other model. I was dejected.

Within a day of the second rejection, I attended a previously scheduled conference in which my national manager gave a business update. This update featured, among other things, the successes of my little car and me as the last year recently closed out. The content had been put together before these two recent rejections. While my car and I were being touted in the meeting, I was still licking my wounds from the two fresh rejections. During the business update, I felt like a fraud who would soon be discovered. My stomach turned, my blood pressure was noticeably up, and I slinked down in my chair. I didn’t want any of this good attention while I was falling flat. Most of all, I wanted my national manager to stop saying good things about me and my little car. I kept thinking, “If she only knew.” During the update meeting, we run a visible comment board and I started to become hyper-aware that the positive comments had dried up as the national manager was highlighting my results. “They know,” I thought.

Analysis

This is how our brains work. We go on a good run and we’re on top of the world. But, have a couple of set-backs in quick succession, and all of a sudden the world is collapsing around us. My wife is pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology and she tells me that our brains have developed a somewhat-controlled paranoia over many thousands of years to keep us alive. For example, a rustling bush might not have meant a large predator was about to make a meal out of them, but if our ancestors had always calmly assumed the rustling was “just the wind,” our species probably wouldn’t have made it. In other words, we’re essentially pre-wired to jump to bad conclusions.

Reality

The reality of the situation is…

  • My little car and I did have a great year last year and I wasn’t a fraud
  • Yes, two potentially significant customers DID reject my little car for their needs, but the problem isn’t permanent
  • In fact, the clients may find that the cars they went with don’t meet their needs and they could change back to mine fairly quickly
  • Even if they don’t, there will be other buyers for my little car
  • These set backs do NOTmean the end of me or my little car
  • And finally, the kudos in the comment board had slowed up after the individual recognitions 10 minutes before my car was being presented – so it wasn’t because people were “on to me”

Using the long view to overcome a stressful moment

When I was young, if something bad would happen, my grandfather would say, “You’ll never know it in a hundred years” and then he’d have a chuckle. At the time I thought he was just old and insensitive. Of course I wouldn’t know it in a hundred years – I’ll be dead by then! But he was on to something. He was using the long view and a touch of humor to offer me an alternative perspective. This situation really isn’t that bad. When events we immediately perceive to be negative occur, our minds race to what this could mean. We then quickly begin grieving the situation and piling on “evidence” of further doom. But if we’re able to slow down for a mindful moment and consider the reality of the situation in context with the long view, many times we’ll see that things aren’t so bad. This in turn, frees up our mental resources to begin working on what we can do about the situation.

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