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Meaningful Meaning

By: Patrice McGuire



You’ve had a productive week.  You’ve worked hard and look forward to the weekend of socializing and relaxing.  You’re about to leave the office and you notice a voice mail message has been left.  You hesitate and decide to pick it up.  It’s a message…from your boss.  The message says, “Hey, I need to see you in my office first thing Monday morning, 8:00am sharp.  Don’t be late.  Oh, and have a good weekend!”


You immediately think to yourself, “What did I do?”, “Am I in trouble?”  Or “Am I going to get fired?”.


Sound familiar?  Would you lose sleep over the weekend?  Backtrack your every move for the past 10 days?  Angst.  Excessive worry.  Crazy thoughts.


Why do we do this?  Why do we create our own meaning when we don’t know the WHY behind the action?


We assign meaning, jump to conclusions, become judgmental and assume the worst.  We try to make sense to foster greater understanding, yet often at the expense of our own emotions and actions.


Here are five strategies to interrupt our thoughts and emotions so that we can react to the “unknown” in a more positive manner:

  1. Assume noble intentions.  Other people generally mean no harm or ill intent. Assume others are trying to do the right thing and they are not purposefully trying to set you up for failure.
  2. Pause.  Take a breath and pause before you say or do anything.  Allow your brain to get back into its “right mind.”  This forces emotions to dissipate and your mind can return to a more logical state.  This will prevent the most immediate and emotional reaction which can often be negative.
  3. Give your brain something to think about.  Keeping your brain busy helps to manage your emotions.   Consider “reasonable reasons” behind what happened.  Be curious but not judgmental.
  4. Prevent the scatter.  Refrain from sharing your “stories” with others.  Telling your stories to others to help to seek validation can make us feel better about our own bad behavior.
  5. “How” to “What Now.”  Break the flow of how or why things happen and force your thinking into the “What Now” mode.  This interrupts your pattern of thinking and initiates change with “What can I do?” 

Challenge your thinking and consider what is possible.  Stop and reset so that the emotions you create can be more planful, positive and productive.  You no longer are held hostage to a negative pattern of thinking because you have interrupted that pattern.  You can return to a more logical pattern of thinking and most importantly, get a little more sleep over the weekend.


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