Perhaps you’ve heard the story told about the rail yard worker named Nick. Nick was a great employee in every way – on time, helpful to others, stayed late, etc. Nick’s only challenge was that he looked at everything in a negative light. To his way of thinking, if something was going to go wrong, it would. One day, the worst possible event happened to Nick; he was accidently locked in a refrigerated rail car. All the other workers in the rail yard had left, and he was alone on the property. No one would come to his aid until the next morning. Nick knew, or thought he knew, he was doomed. You see, the car was unplugged so the refrigeration unit was not operable and the car had an outside vent so plenty of air was getting in the car. However, Nick failed to stop and assess his situation. In his mind, he was trapped in a cold, airless room where he would likely freeze to death. Unfortunately, the autopsy revealed that is exactly what happened to Nick. He froze to death in a room that was 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s the lesson for us? Our brains our powerful tools and what our mind creates becomes our reality. When faced with a stressful situation, stop and assess what is really happening. First remain calm. A great way to create calm is to take deep full breaths, breathing in and out slowly to the count of three. Once we have our breath under control, we can begin to ask questions. Are my beliefs about the situation true? How do I know this is true? Can I change my belief? American Psychologist, Albert Ellis, developed the A+B=C formula for managing stress. I mentioned this formula in an earlier blog post. In short, the A stands for activating events or the things that happen to us, B stands for our beliefs and C is the consequence or outcome. Ellis taught the only was to change the outcome of a situation is to change B in the equation. We can not change or control A, we can only change or control B to influence C. Most of the time, we don’t face events quite as dramatic or scary as being locked in a refrigerated rail car. But, next time you are faced with an upset customer, snarled traffic, or looming project deadline, take a few breaths and examine your belief about what’s happening. Then, work to change your view.