How to regain composure – in 4 seconds

Photo credit - Ashish Coudhary via Pixabay

Photo credit – Ashish Coudhary via Pixabay

What pushes your buttons? Is it traffic and drivers behaving badly? Or software that keeps booting you out of the system? Caught in meetings that run late? Whatever the cause, you will be well-regarded if you are able to “keep your cool” regardless. Here’s a tip to manage this.

This post draws on an interview at the Peak Work Performance Summit I attended (online). One interview was with Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a company that strengthens leadership in people and in organisations. He has written various books on productivity, his latest being Four Seconds.

It only takes four seconds
One of the great take-aways from this presentation, was how to bring yourself back to an even keel after an upset, in four seconds.

Regain your composure
When you are emotionally wound up, or experiencing overwhelm in a situation you need to manage your reaction and prevent a knee-jerk reaction that you may regret later. So the two simple steps are:

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Take a deep breath.

Sounds simple – how does it work?

Fist on table

Photo credit – public domain image via Pixabay

It takes four seconds to take a deep breath.

A deep breath slows down your reaction to something.

A deep breath relaxes you. It re-grounds you and lets you get your footing back. It allows your brain to consider more productive reactions.

When you feel your feet on the ground again, you can choose a better choice of action/statement in the moment.

Do it anywhere, any time
The beauty of a technique like this is that you can do it anywhere, any time. It requires no special equipment just the wherewithal to remember it when you need it.

All you need to do is practise it a few times to see its value and incorporate it into your toolkit of skills.  If you are in a meeting and someone notices you taking four seconds, they will wonder what is coming – surprise them with your equanimity!

Extend it!
Peter’s recommendation is – take a deep breath once an hour – to make sure you are on track with where you want to be, throughout your day. It can be a focus-check: Are you doing what you want to be doing, in the way you want to do it?

To manage this once an hour, you may need a reminder eg a watch that “pips” on the hour or some other timer.

Try it out and let me know how you go!

One Trackback

  1. By How to learn resilience | Word from a bird on February 28, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    […] In situations where “hot” emotional responses arise, try to recast them in a less emotional way. Breathe. Choose a response. [See an earlier post: Regain composure in 4 seconds.] […]

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