It’s reasonable to say that we have all experienced with some degree of being overwhelmed in our lives.
I have spoken with many business owners that have had a more intense experience of overwhelm and have often described the experience as “a dark night of the soul”.
As a business owner you will know that when those critical challenges arise that you will often feel that you are entirely alone and without support. Such situations are extremely stressful as the weight of responsibility presses down on the business owner. As the mind focuses on worst-case outcomes and on the consequences for the individual, the family, business employees, customers and suppliers the business owner can easily spiral into overwhelm and very quickly reach a point where effort seems pointless and the situation hopeless.
The stress triggers the “fight, flight or freeze” response and to protect us its looking towards all the potential danger points in the situation.
In reflecting on one such “dark night of the soul” that I experienced some years ago, I realized that in the moment it felt as if it were the worst moment of my life and yet today I reflect on it as one of the great formative experiences in my life.
The situation that I was dealing with is not important, what is relevant is the emotional overwhelm that I was experiencing. My family and my closest associate were away, and it wasn’t possible to connect with them. I was alone, faced with dealing with a critical situation and the mind was running all the worst-case scenarios over and over. I saw the loss of my source of income, my home, being unable to support my family, the consequences for 40+ company employees depending on the business to support their families and worst of all I would be a failure. This went on an on as I paced the floor and began to feel ever more desperate.
I needed to address the issue to hand, but I was unable to put two cohesive sentences together when I sat down to prepare a response. The chorus of an old Kingston Trio song, the Reverend Mr Black, came to mind and best sum up my feelings as I sat there;
“You got to walk that lonesome valley. You got to walk it by yourself. Oh, nobody else can walk it for you. You got to walk it by yourself.”
Those words triggered me to recall a lesson from Tony Robbins; he talked about the triad that creates our inner state.
Robbins Technique one:
This triad consists of a pattern of physiology, focus and internal language which combine to create out emotional state.
He also said motion creates emotion and, so I decided to move and to go walk that lonesome valley. I live in the heart of the Burren in County Clare and, so I went for a 10 KM walk on the Green Roads that run along the base of the valley.
Just going out on the walk changed my physiology and I started to feel a little more energized, but the thoughts of danger points would kick in. An effective way to change focus is to ask questions and as I walked I started asking myself some of the great questions that I had learned in the Robbins environment to change my focus. Questions like;
Robbins Technique two:
What else could this mean? Or
What if life were happening for me and not to me?
As Tony says, if you don’t like the answers you are getting, ask better questions!
As my focus changed and with my more energized physiology, I decided it was time to go for the third element of the triad, my internal language - the dialogue or story that I was telling. As I went on with the walk I used the power of incantation to change it – again a Robbins technique; as I walked I continually repeated “All I need is within me now!” changing the emphasis to each word in turn and making the incantation with rhythm.
By the time I got home from my walk, my state was entirely changed. I felt energized,creative, capable and most importantly I didn’t feel alone anymore.
I then used yet another Robbins strategy to get even more momentum. This approach teaches that when things don’t go as planned or we reach crisis, it is the tendency of the mind to see things as being much worst that they are.
Robbins Technique three:
Step One is to see things as they are, not better, not worse, just as they are.
Step Two is to see things as you would have them be and be clear on your outcome; and
Step three begin closing the gap between how things are and how you would have them be.
I was able to respond to the situation effectively and the crisis was averted.
My most important lesson was seeing how the mind created the overwhelm by focusing on all the possible danger points. In doing there was no space f solution. The truth of Tony Robbins statement “where focus goes energy flows” was completely reinforced for me.
In overwhelm, my focus was entirely on the problem and on all the worst-case outcomes. When that trance was broken using the power of the triad, I was able to focus on the outcome that I wanted, and my creativity and energy flowed towards finding the solution.
Next time you feel overwhelmed, take three conscious breaths and focus on the outcome that you want rather than on the ones you want to avoid, because where focus goes, energy flows.