Are you one of those nicey-nicey people? Constantly smiling at others, asking them how their day went and so on and so forth? Willing to let things that irk you slide in order to make the day move a little more smoothly?
Congrats, you are probably a normal person. Most of us do not like to get involved in too much drama on a daily basis.
Conflict is exhausting, emotionally, mentally, and physically. You let things go because jumping into the fray just takes too much out of you.
And that’s okay, but what if I told you you did this too often. So much so that it was hindering your ability to get better?
A Nice Simmer
Picture your most productive “zone” as a temperature setting on a stove.
This is the time when you are the most focused. Your work output is concentrated on a single problem with no distractions. Your background knowledge, energy, and sense of values are the ingredients.
The temperature is your emotional excitation.
If your not emotionally connected your temperature is too low. You won’t care about what is going on. No problem will stand out to you as important enough to deal with. You might have the necessary knowledge and values, and your energy may be at an all time high. If you don’t have a focus, though, it will all be put to waste.
Emotion provides focus by drawing our attention to a value which is not being met. Something we care about is in trouble and if we don’t deal with it we will lose it forever.
On the other hand, if your emotions are running rampant the temperature is too high. You are distracted by insults to your ego. You stray from the path of the current problem to hurl insults at others. You aren’t thinking clearly because you are too angry and your only impulse is to break something.
We’ve all been in these situations, whether its a meeting at work or a discussion at home. We are either too cold and listless or too hot and upset.
A great and productive time requires finding that proper balance on the thermostat between not enough emotion and too much. A nice simmer of all the ingredients.
Big Changes Happen When You’re Angry
Our biggest motivators for change come when something happens that “wakes us up” and makes us realize how far we’ve let ourselves go.
Chris Shugart, writer and health and fitness trainer, coined this as “Phoenix Theory.”
We have some sort of incident that burns us, hard.
For Chris this involved his weight, but for others it may be something else. We realize we don’t spend enough time with friends and family when one close to us passes away. We are forced to change our spending habits after hitting rock bottom. We get humiliated. Beaten down. Broken.
Chris outlines four main points of his theory:
- A traumatic event leading to a sudden realization and awakening
- Anger and a firm decision to change
- The physical [mental, emotional] transformation itself
- Continued progress fueled by fear of regression
I added in the mental and emotional because these kinds of changes can work in just the same way.
Our thermostat gets turned up to its highest setting and we have to deal with it, ready or not.
Most of the time we get humiliated because we are most likely not ready for what is going on. We feel hopeless, helpless, and powerless.
We are ready to change. But how can we ensure the thermostat stays up?
The Doctrine of the Mean (Of Pissed Off-Ness)
Aristotle believed that what it meant to be virtuous depended upon being able to see situations differently and see their competing values.
He thought that the right course of action involved finding a balance between two extremes. The idea of the mean in this sense is not meant to be thought of as in the middle. According to Aristotle’s ideas it might be necessary every once in a while, if the situation called for it, to sway towards one extreme or the other.
In order to make good and lasting changes to your character, you need to be a little pissed off. In the balancing act between wrath and indifference you’re going to have to lean towards wrath a bit.
Too much and you’ll just feel like destroying. Too little and you won’t care enough to change.
You need to be a bit agitated.
When you encounter that traumatic event that forces you to look inward, initially you’re going to be boiling but you’ll eventually cool down.
In order to keep the heat up a bit you’re going to have to do a few things.
- Reflect on what happened. Your ego is hurt or you’ve lost something valuable. Whatever the case, you need to think about what happened and why it hurt you the way it did.
- Admit you need to change. You need to do something to change or pretty soon there will be no turning back. You might not have hit rock-bottom, but you sure are close.
- Dig deep into why you need to change. Maybe your bad habits are severely limiting your ability to live or are likely to cut your life short. Whatever it may be, you need to really understand why change is necessary.
Doing these things will ensure you don’t cool back down to your normal levels and never achieve lasting change.
There is a simmering point for all of us where we are the most productive, whether its in a group or by ourselves.
Our natural state is to try to stay cool and our natural inclination when things go sour is to heat up too much. Keeping a level head even when you are angry is the key to getting things done. Things that matter anyway.
That person that made fun of your major? Use it as fuel. That change at work that is going to make things more difficult for you? Speak up and let them know.
Finding that proper balance is a great start to your personal development journey.