It’s that time of year again.
Spending time with families.
Traveling across the country.
Hopping from one party to the next.
Stuffing your face with food you normally avoid.
Battling against supermoms for the last American Girl doll in the store.
IN SHORT: Drama. Lots of drama.
The good news is, even though the world around you has more drama than the season finale of Glee, you can still prevent the world inside you from being contaminated.
Here’s a list of strategies to help delete drama from your life:
1. When it doubt, write it out. I have friends who actually get mad at me for not getting mad. “How can you be so calm?” they ask me in the midst of chaos. To which I respond, “Um, because the alternative hurts my stomach.”
That doesn’t help. Apparently, my calmness irritates people. Isn’t that ironic? My ability to relax drives people crazy. That’s messed up.
But what most people don’t know is, that’s the first thing I do, every day of my life: I lay my frustrations out for twenty minutes as soon as I wake up. It’s a journaling exercise called Morning Pages.
And I recommend it to everybody because of its amazing power to delete drama. Think about it: When you give yourself permission to bitch and moan for a finite amount of time, every morning, you leave the drama where it belongs: On the page. And then you can get on with your life. How do you let all of your noises out?
2. Impose your own order on chaos. A Course in Miracles reminds us that inner peace is not something that we create, but rather something that already exists within us as a part of our true identity.
That’s exactly how you delete the drama: By tapping into your indspensible stabilizing element. Something to anchor you when world tries to knock the music out of you. Something to help you soar above the turmoil that surrounds you.
As a yoga student, mine is my breath. The mantra is: “Fast heart, slow lungs.” This reminds me that more that chaos erupts around me, the deeper I need to breath through my diaphragm.
That’s how I cope calmly with my inconveniences. That’s how avoid becoming wrapped up in the injustice of the situation. By using my breath to remind myself that there is rarely a reason to rush.
The tricky part is, human hardwiring predisposes us to react, which is a conditioned reflex. We have to teach ourselves to respond, which is a conscious choice. Do you refuse to be conquered?
3. There are no emergencies. Read that again. It’s not a sentence – it’s a lifestyle. It’s a philosophy. Because when you really stop and think about it, outside of major health, safety or family related incidents – true emergencies are few and far between.
We just convince ourselves of the seriousness of things to create drama that preserves our sense of self-importance.
Yoga studios are perfect personifications of this attitude. When I practice in Los Angeles, for example, there’s a noticeable increase in studio drama: Heavy breathing, lack of stillness, inability to stay in the room and unnecessary grunts and moans.
It’s weird: I’ve practiced around the world and never found another studio that exhibits as much drama. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a California thing.
Either way, here’s the problem: These dramatic reactions to internal and external turmoil disturb the practice of everyone in the room. Not smart for creating an atmosphere of execution.
In fact, I bet you probably work with someone just like this. You know the type: The focal point of their entire identity is the unnecessary, self-created drama that stinks up your day. Have you deleted these clowns from your life yet?
4. Intentionally step out of the current. Otherwise, like a relentless but subtle ocean undertow, the drama will own you. To the point that you won’t even realize you’ve been swept out to sea. To the point that when you come up for air, you discover that you’re miles away from the peace your heart requires.
The secret is to start with awareness. To see things dispassionately. Three questions I find helpful are:
*Am I thinking a thought that will stress me out?
*Is this really worth my energy?
*Why are you rushing?”
Ask yourself these questions internally. Write them on sticky notes on the dashboard of your car. You can even ask your spouse or partner to elbow you in the ribs with these questions anytime the drama takes over. Whatever it takes to say goodbye to what no longer serves you.
The cool part is, the more these questions enter your mindspace – the sooner they become second nature. Eventually, you’ll start to live your questions. And the current of drama won’t stand a chance. How do you talk to yourself when you experience stress?
5. Self-importance is self-delusion. A few years ago, the Internet connection at my office (living room) crapped out. Not sure what happened. Probably just a wiring glitch. Whatever. Because instead of freaking out like I used to, I remember – specifically – making the decision to (not) let it bother me.
I’ll just check it at lunch, I thought.
And I did. I worked through the morning, wrapped at noon and drove to Panera for a sandwich. Then, when I checked my email for the first time that day, do you know what happened?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nobody grumbled. The world didn’t end. My business didn’t go under. And my readers didn’t line up around the corner with pitchforks and torches.
Lesson learned: Most of the world is not sitting on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating your every move. Sure, you have your commitments. Your families and customers and coworkers who depend on you.
But if your life revolves around one pseudo crisis after another, take note: Your conscious faculties have been anesthetized. Time to stop and evaluate. What illusions of self-importance are you ready to delete?
6. Burn your television. It serves zero purpose other than to introduce unnecessary drama into your life by scaring you and selling you things. And with every minute you watch it, your body contracts a little bit more.
You can’t let yourself get away with that any longer. I don’t care if you only watch three shows. I don’t care if you only watch educational programming. Television is toxic. Period.
And sadly, according to latest Nielsen statistics, the average American watches more than four hours of television each day.
Can you imagine how much better your life could be if that time was reinvested into something that mattered?
Can you imagine how much drama could be deleted if you taped a big sign across your screen that read, “How will your life become better by turning me on?”
And don’t feed me that line about how you only watch television to relax. Nice try, Ted Turner, but television isn’t relaxing – it’s assaulting. Hell, heroin is relaxing. Doesn’t mean I’m going to shoot up before work.
Stop whining about how you can’t seem to find the time to exercise, to meditate, to write or to read. Just stop watching television and start doing what matters. The end. Except for Glee. That show really is amazing. How many hours did you watch last week?
7. Create a network of healing. I swear: Some people have a vested interest in self-destruction. Can’t be healthy. And life’s too short to surround yourself with these idiots. In the words of First Lady Michelle Obama:
“In order to remove drama from your life, you have to remove those that thrive on it.”
Your network of healing – that is, your human support system – needs include people who challenge, inspire, motivate, support, listen to and believe in you. That means: No hypersensitives who flip out over meaningless mistakes, no energy vampires who suck all the positive vibes out of the room and no drama queens who thrive on constant chaos and hysteria.
That’s all success is: A process of elimination. You’ll find that deciding what you want in that way is less threatening and intimidating. Give it a shot. It’s amazing what a cleansing, spiritual experience it is to press the delete button on people who don’t contribute to your success. What are the characteristics of the most supportive possible environment you can think of?
8. Enlist your inner governor. I don’t know about you, but I am on an epicenter quest. In any given experience, my mission is to be able to move to a place of peace at a moment’s notice. It’s taken a lot of training, but I think I’m slowly starting to get the hang of it.
Like that time I rear-ended that guy with my car. Dude flipped out. And right after the collision, he leaped out of his dented Lincoln – fuming – and hurled towards the open window of my Mazda. Then, the first words out of his angry mouth were, “And how many beers have you had tonight?”
To which I calmly replied, “I don’t drink, sir.”
Naturally, he didn’t believe me, and stormed back to his car. But a few minutes later after his wife calmed him down; he came back to my window. A bit more relaxed this time, the guy said, “Okay. I’m sorry. I may have overreacted. Are you okay?”
We were both fine. And so were our cars. More importantly, I learned the contagious power of calm. Perfect tool for deleting drama. Are you treating each experience you experience as a test of what you believe?
9. Reinvest your misfortune. Shit happens. To all of us. The difference maker is whether we smear the rug with it or fertilize the grass with it. Next time something (supposedly) devastating happens, try this:
First, stroke the problem with your eye. Noticing it before you let it nag you. Then, instead of filling with fury, channel your aggravation into something more productive.
Instead of telling yourself how much you suck, try affirming to yourself, “Next time.”
Instead of drowning in the infinite regression of argument, step back and ask, “Wait: Why the hell are we even have this conversation?”
And instead of wasting any energy whining about your current experience, try redirecting any frustration you have into learning from that experience.
You'll turn misfortune into real fortune. What would you have to learn from this mistake to make it no longer a mistake?
In conclusion, we turn to the immortal words of the Stoic philosopher, Seneca:
“The only safe harbor in this life's tossing, troubled sea is to refuse to be bothered about what the future will bring and to stand ready and confident, squaring the breast, to take without sulking or flinching whatever fortune hurls at us.”
LOOK: I’m not suggesting you try to live a trouble-free existence.
But most drama is unnecessary, unhealthy, self-inflicted and can be easily deleted.
Sure, there’s a time and place for drama.
It’s called the theater.
Learn to leave it there and go enjoy the holiday season.
It’s called the most wonderful time of year for a reason.
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What drama have you deleted from your life this week?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Never the same speech twice.
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Friday, December 03, 2010
It’s that time of year again.