I freaked out the other day. In fact, I freaked out a few times…all due to a chain of events within about two hours.
If you know me, you know that my freak-outs can be a bit…dramatic.
It went something like this:
- First, I answered one last email before leaving the office and made myself late for a meeting with a client
- Then, I made a pit-stop on the way home and drowned my stress in a large, highly-caloric coffee-smoothie-drink of love
- After that, I snapped at hubby when he called to tell me he was running late coming home
These moments each sent my mind spinning…to a future of various levels of misery, poverty and loneliness. I couldn’t shake the regret…the feeling that things would never be the same.
What happened to cause such overreactions? Despite the true facts, here’s what I told myself:
- My trust with my client has been irreparably broken…
- My body just put on five pounds and won’t be able to get them off…
- My husband is going to want to come home late every day just to keep away from me…
No surprise that in the end, none of this happened. The moments all passed. I made them right when needed. Everything was fine.
We do this to ourselves all the time. We make one misstep and we become sure – no, convinced – that we’ve completely blown it. We believe a single action has taken away all of our hard work, good deeds and carefully-built relationships.
Why? Because in that moment, that misstep feels huge. Because when we are living it we truly believe it’s the center of our world – and the world of everyone around us.
The truth? The one that great leaders and happy people seem to know already?
Life is one big fat stretch of time, filled to the brim with activities, successes and – yes – lots of missteps. And they almost always pass without long-term consequences once we deal with them.
To be fair, life also contains a few truly momentous occasions…rare ones that do change everything. They include things like finding/ending major relationships, having kids, getting/leaving jobs, the death of loved ones. There are also brief moments in time that have truly long-term consequences, like a serious accident or a natural disaster.
The other thousands of moments? They’re all just a teensy part of our ever-continuing – sometimes messy – lives. They are ephemeral…short-lived…blips on the screen of life. And they pass.
And yet…these other moments take on a life of their own:
- We don’t get an interview for a job we want and freak out, believing we’ll be unemployed…forever
- We pay a credit card late and freak out, believing our credit will be ruined…forever
- We have a fight with a loved one and freak out, believing our relationship is changed…forever
These long-term consequences we become so convinced of? They almost never happen.
We know deep down that – for the most part – we are not defined by our many, many short-lived moments. Instead, we are defined by our patterned choices and actions over the long haul.
It’s just not about one mistake at the office (unless you report to this guy)…
Successful, happy people know it, too – so what do they do about their missteps? They make them right, learn from them, and move on. They focus on what matters.
And, they Don’t. Freak. Out.
I ask you now.
When was the last time you made a mistake at work, had an argument with a loved one, made a big purchase…and felt like nothing would ever be the same? Did you figure it out? Did it pass? How quickly?
Now, think about those life-changing moments you’ve REALLY had, when nothing REALLY was the same again. How many have there been? Ten? Maybe less?
So get some perspective. Know your triggers. Know that this moment, too, shall pass. Say it in the moment. And stop freaking out.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Especially when you’ve gotten especially good at being a freaker-outer, like me. I struggle with this all the time. But I also work on it.
In fact, I had to remember it just this morning… when I literally handed over my last dollar at lunch and had the sinking sensation that I was one step away from living on the street. As my heart skipped a beat I remembered there was an ATM around the corner, and that my account did indeed have money in it.
That’s when I stopped freaking out. And got back to enjoying life.
Stop freaking out…or at least save your freak-outs for those true, transformative milestone moments in life.
Learn to recognize just how few there are.
Then move trust this one will pass, and move forward…knowing this next one will be better.
Now go do good…and do it well.