Spinning Your Wheels In An Oil Slick?

by Susan Dunn

Are you worrying about the same things over and over again, and don’t seem to make any progress? You go over it in your head all the time, but you’re sliding around and getting nowhere, just filled with worry and doubt? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels on an oil slick? If so, what you need is a little traction. Clarity is what provides the traction.

When worry and doubt fill your mind, they cloud the whole thinking field, and you can’t a grip on what’s really going on. You see, when you get into a negative mindset, it spreads. Negative thinking breeds negative emotions, and vice versa. These, in turn, breed inaction.

Let’s take a simple example, an absurd one, to make a point. Let’s say you have a mailbox full of emails you need to answer. Actually there are ten, but to you that’s a mailbox full. You look at them and think, “I can’t do this. That’s too many.” So you go watch a little TV. The next day you look at your mail box and there are 8 new emails to answer. You think, “18 emails! I’ll never answer all those. I haven’t got the time. Besides I don’t know what to say.” That night you worry about answering all those emails. They’re important. You worry about what to say to these people, and now you have to worry about how you’re going to explain why you took so long. “Why did I wait so long,” you ask yourself, and come up with a lot of negative reasons why.

The next day you wake up tired, because you were worrying all night and slept poorly, and there are 11 new emails. Now there are 29 to answer. Now you’re furious. “How could I be so stupid as to let these pile up?” you berate yourself, and the start thinking about all the other things you, in your incompetent way, have let pile up. The garage is a mess, there’s a pile of bills on your desk. It’s too much, so you go lie down and take a nap.

Your husband comes in and asks you why you didn’t pick up any Cokes when you were at the store, like you said you would. You realize you were so preoccupied about the emails, you forget completely. Feeling bad about that, you shout at your husband, “How can I do all this? I don’t have time. Couldn’t YOU have gone to the store.” Your husband looks surprised, at first, and then gets angry. He calls you “unreasonable”. You reply that he’s unreasonable to expect you to do “everything,” and he walks out of the room. You tell yourself that you’re PMSing and have an impossible husband.

Then you go sit down to answer the emails and 5 more have appeared. You put your head down on the keyboard and say, “I can’t. This is too much. I’m not up to this.” Then you think of other things you’re “not up to” – the garage, getting Cokes, maybe even marriage.

Your head is full of negative thoughts, worries and doubts about your abilities which have spread into every possible area. Your faults have become global, apply to everything, and permanent. Instead of someone who failed to answer 10 emails one day, you are now someone who is inept at everything, always have been and always will be.

In order to get rid of this feeling, you call your best friend to complain about how impossible your husband is. She does a pity-party with you, but you actually feel worse when you get off the phone, because negative talk breeds negative thinking, remember? You’re on the oil slick. It’s a “dark place,” as one of my coaching clients calls it. A bunch of negative emotions with no traction, no managing of those emotions, or the behaviors and thoughts that have caused them.

Now most of us can see the folly of this example, but when we’re in this oil slick ourselves, we don’t, simply because of being in it. There’s no traction. We can’t think clearly.

The solution? You have to get rid of the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts, and then take action.

Ask yourself if the things you are worrying about are real. If so, then what can you do about them? If it’s emails piling up, then the solution is to stop thinking about it, stop worrying, stop putting yourself down, and simply answer the emails, one by one.

If it’s terrorism or world peace, these are real only in the sense they exist, but it isn’t real to assume you can solve these problems, single-handedly and today, or ever; and the answer may be to get busy doing something you can do, solve a problem you can do something about, stop watching television and reading the news, think about positive things, meditate so you aren’t thinking at all, or play a game of tennis.

In other words, focus your mind. Manage your thoughts and emotions. This is EQ and this is what provides traction.

Stop ruminating on the negative and repeating doubtful thoughts. Clarity will strengthen your communication and bring you credibility and trust with others, and, more importantly, with yourself.

Focus your mind. Stick with facts, not fantasy. Manage the negative emotions. Emotions are good for telling us what we want, but not good for getting us what we want. They can get in the way of clarity. Once you focus, what needs doing is clear and sits right in front of you, so all you have to do is get to work, with Intentionality.

Calling things by their right names is beginning of wisdom.

In the case of our example, the fantasy is that you’re inept and lazy, your husband is insensitive and impossible, your best friend can make you feel good when you haven’t addressed what the real problem is, and that PMS is an excuse for anything. The focus is that you need to answer your emails.

Manage those emotions – it’s what emotional intelligence is all about.

Copyright Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, susandunn.cc Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. We coach and train EQ coaches internationally.