Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword, so I want to explain what it means for me. Being mindful means staying in the present moment. If you have a meditation practice, you'll be ahead of the game in this area. Being mindful in relation to your emotions is key. Consider the following example:
Jennifer's boss assigned her participate in a collaborative group that'll be working on developing a new product for her company. This is excellent news, because she feels ready for a more challenging role at work (and a pay raise), and has already applied to be promoted. This is the opportunity she's been waiting for to really demonstrate her abilities to her leaders-- her time to SHINE! So when Jennifer goes home, she celebrates the news of the assignment over a nice dinner with her husband. Over intimate conversation, they talk about her impending promotion, and finally being able to afford that trip to Paris they've been dreaming of. They talk about how she'll have more flexibility in her schedule once she's promoted. This will open up so many doors, from not having to work Saturdays to consistently being off from work at 4:30pm (which means she'll be able to make it to the 6pm yoga class her best friend has been inviting her to for the last year.) Jennifer is experiencing a real excitement for the future that she hasn't in a long time and it feels GOOD.
The next morning she arrives early to work hoping to catch her boss before the other employees start to come in, so that they can discuss the project in more detail. She wants to share her eagerness to get started! As they sit down over a cup of coffee to chat, her boss tells her she'll be expected to work closely with Greg to complete the majority of the product development. Her heart sinks. Greg is a stand-offish type who seems to frequently squash any positivity as soon as it starts. His doom-and-gloom outlook brings down the energy in the office. Not to mention, she worked with him on a smaller project last year and ended up doing at least 75% of the work herself. In a nutshell, Greg is negative and lazy; not someone she would ever choose to be around. Jennifer's excitement for her work in the coming months is zapped for a couple of reasons. First, she starts trying to figure out how in the world she can handle the workload. Considering the fact that the amount of work to be done could easily be spread between three people, it's only being assigned to she and Greg. And Greg has already shown her how lazy he is, she knows she won't be able to count on him to pull his weight. On top of that, she's also trying to figure out how in the world she's going to tolerate his constant negativity without becoming angry. In fact, she can already feel herself becoming angry and upset, and they haven't even spoken to each other about the project yet.
Even though she still has lots of things to finish up before diving into the new project next week, Jennifer is so upset about the thought of working with Greg, that she decides to go home after lunch. She spends the rest of the day going over different scenarios with her husband and her friends. "Logistically, how am I going to complete the work of three people on my own?" "How can I possibly tolerate Greg's attitude?" And she really starts to mourn the loss of the promotion she'd been certain she'd get only last night. Because there is no way she'll be able to WOW her leaders in the way she'd hoped- she'll be doing good just to complete what's asked of her without losing her sanity.
Now, we don't really know what is going to happen with Jennifer and Greg. It's possible Greg was going through a terrible hardship at the time last year when he and Jennifer collaborated on their previous project and literally couldn't carry his weight at work. Maybe his mom has cancer and he's her primary caregiver; he can't be positive or counted on for much outside of the normal work day because of his overwhelming responsibilities at home. OR-- maybe Greg truly is just a lazy asshole. The lens through which Jennifer sees the situation may or may not allow her to show compassion toward Greg.
This scenario is an example of how we can all get caught up in our "stories." Stories about the past and stories about the future, and they greatly impact how we experience the present. That doesn't mean that our past experiences with people and situations aren't valid, but simply that they're far less relevant than we often think they are. People and situations are constantly evolving, and our world requires us to be mindful of the present moment.
So when you're feeling triggered like Jennifer was when she found out about collaborating with Greg, I challenge you to take some inventory. I've learned that all emotions come from one of two places. LOVE or FEAR. Where is your current emotion coming from? Are you grounded in the moment, the NOW? Or are you allowing fear of the future or memories of the past OR BOTH to rule your CURRENT experience? The more you practice this awareness, the easier it is to bring yourself back to current time if you find yourself slipping into stories of possible future scenarios or things that have happened in the past.
If you're interested in learning more about mastering your emotions, please join me for an upcoming class Master Your Emotions class. I'd love to see you there!