We’re on Principle 5 of ‘The Happiness Advantage’, called the Zorro Circle. This is, of course, is a reference to the movie, Zorro. Before Zorro became the swashbuckling hero we remember, he had fallen into drinking and despair. That’s when Don Diego meets him and starts his training by drawing a small circle on the floor and telling him “This circle will be your world, your whole life.” He had Zorro master all the swordplay moves from within the circle, then gradually expanded his circle as Zorro’s skills improved and the rest is legend.
You’re probably already drawing the correlation between Zorro and you. If in your life, your job, or your schoolwork you feel you have no control, you need to pause and focus on what’s going on in your life and take some steps to resolve the feelings of stress.
“Small stresses can build over time, then one more thing and we get emotionally hijacked”.
This has probably happened to you. Burdens have been piling up, but you tell yourself you have it handled, but then something really minor happens and you lose your temper. Emotions need an outlet or to be resolved.
Achor talks about the ‘Internal Locus of Control’ which psychologists define as people who have “The belief that their actions have a direct effect on their outcomes.” These types of people have more feelings of accomplishment, success and happiness. Since they believe their actions affect what happens to them in their job, (when something positive happens), it makes them work that much harder and they accomplish more. In a study he quotes, Achor (through the study), says that people who only think they are in control or have control experience the same positive effects. Their feelings of positivity then spreads out into a ripple effect that touches other parts of their lives. So that raises questions in my mind about all kinds of psychological things I’m not qualified to talk about!
If you feel things are out of control, at work or with life, what do you do first? We go back to Don Diego training Zorro – start with a small circle or step.
Get out some paper and draw a line down the middle. Write down your stresses, overwhelms, challenges and goals. It’s most helpful to verbalize the things on your mind. Do you have a spouse, trusted friend or colleague to talk to? I have found that when I talk about a situation, verbalizing can find a partial solution, or I discover the item I’m discussing really isn’t as bad as I thought it was. This is called the ‘’Self-awareness” step in the book.
Now that you have discussed or written down your stressors, next write down or discuss the things you actually have control over and put them in the ‘under my control’ category on your paper. Once you have the list of things under your control, now you can take each item and break it down into a bite-size bit – remember to master your small circle before going on. The things out of your control should be released from your mind (hard to do, I know).
I’ve actually done this many times in my corporate life before being aware of studies and writings on this subject. There were simply many times when I had so many projects and deadlines that I had to stop, prioritize them and then put them into a schedule of when what thing would get done first. Other times I had one huge project to get done and even though it was one thing, it overwhelmed me. That’s when I divided it into manageable pieces to get it done.
Perhaps you have a cluttered desk or office, or maybe you have thousands of emails that need going through. Perhaps you’re faced with moving your parents out of their long-time home into a smaller assisted living space and you have their life-long accumulation of things to deal with. All of these are daunting and stressful. But using the techniques above, they can be accomplished.
Focus on tiny, incremental changes.
How do you handle the overwhelm that comes at you? Are you already applying some of these suggestions or have you discovered other ways to cope? Leave a comment, please.