Life is a roller coaster. Sometimes you’re at the top of the hill feeling good. Other times your heading for the bottom feeling totally out of control. ~Reggie Dabbs
Life Doesn’t Have to be a Roller Coaster
“I feel like I am on a roller coaster,” one of my executive coaching clients recently opined.
When he said it, I knew exactly what he meant. I feel like it a lot myself and my other clients often complain about that feeling.
Together we decided to deconstruct what was going on. We talked about what he was doing when he was at the top. And we talked about what he was doing when he is at the bottom; “I feel totally overwhelmed,” he said.
“How much time would you estimate that you are at the bottom?” His thoughtful response was, “At least 50% of the time.”
Oh, oh. I thought. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Being at the bottom that much, of course is a danger signal. But what is even more alarming is the process of careening down to the bottom–the rush of adrenaline one gets, along with the fear about whether you are going to make it down safely. Research shows that when we are in such heightened state of alarm that we don’t think clearly and it is hard to make good decisions.
Chart the Hours of Thrills
One of my most important jobs as a coach is to slow that process down. I help people to think about what is going on so that they don’t careen down to the bottom out of control.
I suggested, “Would you mind keeping track this week of where you are on the roller coaster ride, so that we can get a benchmark of where you are?” We crafted a plan: Every day my client would chart how many hours he estimated that he was at the top of the roller coaster.
The following week I asked him how that he had gone. “Really great,” he said with excitement. I called my chart “My Hours of Thrills.”
“So what did you find out?” He said, “That is the really great part! It turns out I am at the top of the roller coaster 6-8 hours every work day.”
He was surprised and so was I. I flipped back through my notes just to check my memory. “You know last week you told me that you were at the bottom at least 50% of the time.” “I did?” He was stunned.
We decided to track another week. Same story–on the top 6-8 hours a day!
What’s the REAL Story?
Turns out that my client is not on much of a roller coaster at all. But, now he knows it. Knowing it is a big help. Now when he is going down the slope he knows it is just a baby ride, not much of a slope at all. No rush of adrenaline and no fear.
And knowing this, he was easily able to talk about what he needs to do when he is heading down the slope–coming up with solutions was a snap for him now.
Here is my client’s Hours of Thrills Chart:
What We Focus on Grows
I have a hunch about why his Hours of Thrills turned out to be such great news. The process of Appreciative Inquiry teaches us that “what we focus on grows”– the Poetic Principle. We have mindsets that influence how we experience our lives and impacts what we see. We are probably evolutionarily wired to see the negatives and to be hyper vigilant about any potential danger. The primitive men who survived were alert to the dangers of the lurking saber tooth tiger and they passed that skill down to us.
The result is that we have to change our mindsets, literally how we see our experiences, to realize that it is not as bad as we feel. When my client focused on how much he was at the top of the roller coaster, he realized that he was hardly on the bottom at all. Before, because it felt dangerous to him, he was giving all attention to being at the bottom and it loomed large in his mind as a consequence.
If you feel like you are on a roller coaster ride, try keeping track of your Hours of Thrills for a week. Let me know how it goes!
p.s. I always am interested in what you think about these discussions. Please post your thoughts on the blog…your constructive criticism and support is appreciated!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Your Mojo Maven
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values.