Last Saturday, when I attended an evening party in Cleveland, I was reminded again that I live in the “Snow Belt.” Now, before I left home I knew that—even though it’s April—we were expecting snow. What I didn’t know was that I would walk out of the party to more than three inches of the heavy white stuff covering my car! The roads were so slippery that even the experienced drivers of NE Ohio were having a tough time maneuvering their cars. The surprise of the treacherous roads knocked the wind right out of me…talk about feeling powerless!
As a result, I let the great time I’d just had celebrating with my friends abruptly turn into irritation and frustration as my usual 40 minute drive home turned into 90 minutes of white knuckled concentration on the road. It wasn’t until I got home safely and caught my breath that I realized what I had just learned.
Things like this can happen to us at anytime. One moment we’re completely enjoying our day and then—BAMM!—in the next moment, we allow something or someone to change the way we feel.
Here’s what I learned: although it’s understandable that the road conditions knocked the fun right out of me, irritation and frustration probably were not the most helpful emotions for me. They only made my situation worse. In my state of surprise, I didn’t remember that I always have a choice about how I feel and I let my negative emotions catch me in what I call a PowerTrap—unconscious and ineffective behavior and thought patterns that stop us. Mine certainly could have stopped me from enjoying the rest of my evening if I hadn’t been paying attention. (Choosing to focus on what I’d learned that night made me laugh out loud—and gave me the perfect article for this month’s newsletter.)
PowerTraps can stop you in all kinds of situations. Maybe a potential client cancels an important appointment at the last second, or a coworker says something hurtful in a meeting, or you’re talking with someone and you suddenly feel angry or upset and you’re not sure why you’re reacting that way. The great news is that you can always identify a PowerTrap by how you feel: When you feel like crap, it’s a PowerTrap!
PowerTraps are as varied as we are and can be triggered by any number of experiences. Perhaps you’ve had potential clients cancel appointments at the last second and you lost the business. Maybe you’ve had coworkers say hurtful things in meetings to undermine the boss’ confidence in you and it worked. Or maybe the tone taken in a conversation with someone reminds you of a time when a parent or teacher chastised you.
Here’s how a PowerTrap works: based on experiences from your past, you get caught unawares by outdated or negative impressions that stop you. So instead of deciding how you want to respond to whatever shows up in the present moment, you unconsciously react.
The result? You feel like crap.
You’re allowing the emotion of something that happened before to dictate how you feel now…
• You feel as if you’ve lost the business already,
• You feel as if the coworker has already succeeded at undermining you, or
• You feel as if you’re being judged unfairly.
Your feelings flood right back to you as if they were the truth in this moment, too.
Here’s the great news—it doesn’t have to be that way! For every PowerTrap there is a PowerTool—a simple shift you can make to stop any ineffective behavior and thought pattern right in its tracks. Then you can replace it with one that’s more effective. The payoff is this: when you change your behavior and/or your thoughts, you can change the emotion you feel in any situation—100% of the time.
In the Monthly Practice (on moveintoyourpower.com) you’ll find an example of a PowerTool that you can use to make a simple shift in any situation. If you like it, you’ll find even more there in my online course, Move Into Your Power, where you’ll discover a series of simple shifts you can make to manage your emotions in a way that will move you forward in your career and in your life. Why not try it for free now?