Tuesday, February 26

Progress Under Pressure

Last month, I began a series called elements of etiquette. In recapping what I shared, you are now in a position of uncovering a chain of principles.

I have learned and tested wisdom handed down throughout my own life. These principles have created immovable piers and paved a foundation for success. You can scroll down and read Principle No.1, which is the 2-Step “If the object of my attention is more than two steps away from my goals….”

We are going to focus on strong emotions and how to introduce an element of etiquette during moments of impulse. After all, impulse is not something we have time to compartmentalize. It just happens!

Strong emotions come from people during times of disagreement or conflict. These confrontations are uncomfortable and can be threatening. When we are on the receiving end of an emotional exchange of words, our impulse is to defend then fix. Then we reason.

In my experience, these impulses (or what I call our default drive) have poor results.

Principle No.2

Progress under Pressure

There are specific steps in perfecting this principle. I will cover the first one in this particular article, which is “A Caboose Called Think.”

Most recently, I had two separate accusatory phone calls. Wow! Neither party knew each other. In fact, they live in separate parts of the world. One was a personal interaction and the other was a business interaction. The three common threads were a lack of communication, misunderstanding, and mistrust.

Before I go on to share Principle No.2, I want to acknowledge that the doctrines, which govern my own life, are handed down from the Author and Finisher of my faith. God, alone, receives the glory, honor, and praise.

One of my favorite illustrations is about a man named Joseph. The Bible gives us an account of the amazing journey of this young man, gravely misunderstood and mistrusted by his own siblings and then his boss.

What really resonated after re-reading the account of Joseph’s life is that he never flinched from his position or his purpose.

After Joseph’s father had passed away, his older brothers assumed that Joseph would seek revenge for the pain and suffering they had directly caused him.

It was quite the contrary!

Their Dad had died and now Joseph approaches them after a typical Middle-Eastern traditional grieving. “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:19-20

When I read these verses, tears welled up in my eyes. Regardless of the various interactions throughout our own lives, what we remember is how others make us feel.

My life is governed by principles. Flexibility has its place but not when you are walking a tight rope. In other words, there are times in our lives when everything is uncertain. It is then we must position ourselves on a foundation of principles. In other words, uncertainty is out of our control.

Do not layer your life with more uncertainty through fear or doubt. Acknowledge loss-of-control and exercise the areas that you can control - like your schedule and priorities, choices and decisions.

Warning: Do not undo in fear what you did in faith.

Moving on, how do you achieve positive progress when the emotions are strong from conflict? 

How did I weather the emotional storms of this week? How did Joseph achieve positive progress when he had every occasion to react with impulse (default drive) because of the SHOCKING conflicts that were totally out of his control?

I admire Joseph’s life. He was a man with profound influence paved with a formula of progress under pressure. The method is really quite simple yet the benefits are superior.

Step 1 – A Caboose called Think

Do not overreact or fear/think the worst when others are exuding strong emotions.

Sometimes, verbal communication is strong because of the words not the tone or tenacity. Whilst the other person is engaged in communicating something strong, I deliberately take on relaxing.

Our bodies’ tense at the onset of unexpected demands. Practice relaxing under pressure. You may not be able to control the circumstances. However, you can control your own response.

I want you to imagine you are on the red engine of a steam train. You are the driver. Behind you is a row of caboose. Each compartment represents a skill. If you unhook the last caboose, you can still function, but your destiny changes. Your last caboose is scheduled for delivery to a city named ‘Personal Best.’

We all have steam to release. When and how we let off steam is our choice. You can achieve your personal best every step of the way. There is no magic moment of arrival to your 'Personal Best.' 

Embrace every opportunity to live your personal best in the moment. Every decision you make is a choice toward or away from living your personal best.

Now we arrive at our first destination or our emotional stop. The first caboose behind the engine is our Think car. What we do with our caboose called Think will determine our next stop.

How we embrace the moment, will frame how we progress through the pressure.

At this point, I select my R&R technique. Relax and Remain calm.

Relax - Take three deep, quiet breaths (you do not want the person to hear your emotion). Intentionally relax your hands, arms, and legs. Wiggle your toes. It is amazing how moving your toes shifts your focus. Try it!

Remain Calm – At all points, I deliberately decline my emotions. When I allow emotions to dictate my behavior, then they escalate in both me and the other party. Everything goes downhill from there…

When you flare up or react to something you do not like, you think and fear the worst. Your perception shifts into panic rather than a controlled presence.

The Bible teaches us that Satan is the accuser. As Christians, we have no place in accusing other brethren. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12:10

We make leaps and bounds in our positive progress when we learn to control our emotional appetite. It seems too simply to secure our progress. Yet I promise you success when you align your thinking with the principles that I teach.

Do not beat yourself up if you fail in the first attempt, or second, or third... Simply hook your Caboose called Think back onto your red engine and exercise your right to decide how to respond the next time you are faced with conflict or pressure.

You can make progress under pressure when you understand that your thoughts sabotage progress, as do your actions.

Change your default drive and make another choice, just as you would on your computer.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will move into Step 2 of Progress under Pressure (our Principle No.2). We will link up with our next Caboose called Body Language.

Allow me to encourage you - We are all a work in progress and no one has everything lined up. The key to growing is in being humble enough to acknowledge your mistakes and be accountable for what you can change.

Until next time….

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Teya Miller said...

Excellent article, Deborah! Thank you for taking the time to write it. Joseph is.wonderful example of grace under tremendous pressure. Also, I have "wiggled my toes" on several occasions this week! :) You are a blessing!


Deborah Choma said...

So glad you enjoyed the article, Teya. Wiggling your toes is actually a quick stress relief technique. The speediest way to stamp out stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—your sense of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement—to rapidly calm and regroup yourself.

Reading your Bible is brilliant! What happens when our levels of stress are too overwhelming to focus on reading?

How do you act when stressed?

When it comes to managing and reducing stress quickly in the middle of a heated situation, it's important to be familiar with your specific stress response.

Wiggling toes works for those who experience 'Frozen stress response' (both overexcited and under excited) – If you tend to freeze: speeding up in some ways while slowing down in others, your challenge is to identify stress relief activities that provide both safety and stimulation to help you “reboot” your system.