Sometimes no matter how hard we try we still travel down the Expressway of Doom!  Yep, I do too, actually I do it more often than I care to admit.

This week everything was going just right and then BOOM one email sent me spiraling into catastrophic thinking fast.

It all started with an e-mail.

I manage a leadership development program at a large hospital system in Vermont. The one year program is graduating its first cohort in a few weeks. For graduation the cohort will be presenting innovative ideas in front of the hospital president, VP’s, and directors – a total audience of around 100 people.

As you can imagine there is a lot riding on this event going well.  We are knee deep in last minute coordination to make sure everything goes smoothly and the graduation goes off well.

Friday afternoon I received an email from the hotel that will be hosting our event stating that they had a conflict and would not able to hold the graduation in the room we had reserved.  Okay – stop for a moment- think about this, what would you be thinking and feeling if this happened to you? Trust me, it wasn’t pretty.

Suddenly I was seeing red and couldn’t really think straight. I was traveling on my Expressway of Doom

What am I going to do?  They can’t do this to me! What will people think? My career is over!

Yes for a quick moment I took it as far as thinking my entire career would be over simply because of this issue.

When you are traveling on your expressway sometimes all logic goes out the window. 

That last thought, as ridiculous as it was, was also what helped me regain my thinking and move towards resilience. As soon as I recognized that I was thinking my career would be over I started to laugh.  Of COURSE my career would not end over this.  This wasn’t even my fault!  Once I realized how ridiculous my thinking was I started using some resilience skills:

  • Pause: I took a deep breath and recognized what I was feeling. Frustration, Anger, Worry – I was mad at the situation and worried that it wouldn’t go well.
    • What is it I want? Well, I want this program to go well. I want people to be impressed by the graduation. I want our graduates to feel proud of themselves.
    • How should I act? Clearly if I call the hotel right now I may not get what I want. I need to calm down and assess my options before reacting.
  • Practice: I started walking a bit just to calm down and then I sought help from some level minded colleagues to think through all possible outcomes.
  • Purpose: My purpose in this situation was to provide a really good experience for my graduations- NOT to inflate my own ego.  This is about them, not me!

After getting grounded, I was able to work through everything and in the end all went okay.

We were able to talk to the hotel and remind them of when we contracted for the room (nearly a year ago) and they made everything right by us.  All order is restored!

So why am I sharing this?

Because it’s a real example of how quickly we can get triggered and head towards a Spin-Cycle. 

Had I not recognized my inner-state I may have acted on anger and called the hotel potentially burning bridges and truly causing a problem for graduation.

I would have acted against my purpose!

Instead I was able to use some of the skills of resilience to slow down the reaction and think about the situation before acting.  Then I was able to turn the setback around and create a favorable outcome.

Life throws curveballs at us all the time. It’s how we handle the curveballs that determines how resilient we are.

Next time you are hit with something and find yourself traveling down the Expressway of Doom at 90mph start by pausing:

  • Take a deep breath and ask yourself what you are thinking and feeling. List all the emotions and thoughts that are going on with you at that moment.
  • Ask yourself: What is it that you want from this situation and how can I get what I want? How should I behave to get it?

Pausing is one of the early steps of Transformative Resilience and it can help you to hop off your Expressway before you head into an out-of-control spin-cycle.  It definitely works for me!

Do you find yourself on an Expressway of Doom?  What are some strategies you use to hop off of it?