When faced with daunting or intimidating tasks, it helps to infuse our decisions and actions with supportive messages and positive intention. I mean, we talk to ourselves anyway, right? What do you think all those self-judgments, fears, and resentments are? So let's make what we say to ourselves work with us instead of against us.
I like using slogans for high pressure and uncomfortable situations. They’re words chosen carefully ahead of time to fall back on when we’re hit with stress or doubt. What works depends on both our personalities and the circumstances. They can take a variety of forms:
Sometimes it’s an affirmative, supportive statement about ourselves. After a flurry of activity meeting a deadline, I take a breath, center myself, and whisper, “I’m a professional. I’ve worked hard and done this to the best of my ability. I’m confident it’s excellent.” It helps me get to a calm place of confidence before completing the task.
Other times, it helps to have an inspiring phrase that acknowledges your bravery in doing something you find scary. For me, it’s the brief lines by the Persian poet Rumi. “Courage: the gazelle turns to face the lions.” I have literally whispered these words out loud to myself as I’ve pushed the send button or released a proposal package into a mailbox. When I say that, I’m asserting that I’ve done my best and I’m willing to face any consequences.
Some situations call for a bit of humor. In a past job, I used to dread receiving certain phone calls, so each time the phone rang I’d freeze before timidly reaching for the receiver. (This was before caller ID.) Sometimes, I would even let it go to voicemail, so I could listen to the message and have time to prepare my thoughts before addressing the concern. But that didn’t really feel good, so to inspire myself to answer without knowing who was on the line or what they wanted, I started saying a line from one of my favorite movies, The Fisher King. Robin Williams’ character, a man whose personal trauma made him lose touch with reality and believe himself to be a knight, hears someone crying for help. Before setting out to rescue the person in danger, he drops to his knees and exclaims: “Heaven be praised for giving me so soon the opportunity to fulfill the duties of my profession.” I wrote that down and kept it handy on my desk. When the phone rang and I didn’t feel ready to talk, I’d whisper these ridiculously gallant lines, which added levity to the moment and also affirmed that even though that part of my job sucked, I was willing to carry it out responsibly.
What quotes, poems, or messages do you find comforting? How might you use them to help you through difficult moments during the day?
Write the words out and keep them somewhere you can access quickly. Experiment with reading them, either silently or out loud, at times when you need some help.
Notice what happens, and please share, if you have a moment.
Until next time,
Your partner on the journey into excellence,