BY MARK MATTESON
JIM ROHN WAS Tony Robbins' first personal development coach. He is a seasoned and impact-full motivational speaker and author. He is very direct and preaches the gospel of accountability. After hearing him speak in Seattle more than 10 years ago, I "invested" $400 and bought all his tapes and books. It was one of the best investments I have ever made in my own personal development.
"Disgust and resolve are two of the great emotions that lead to change," Rohn writes in his "The Treasury of Quotes." "We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons, inspiration or desperation. Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune."
Recently my wife "dragged" me on a camping trip to Birch Bay, Wash. It is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the Northwest. My idea of camping is to stay at a five-star hotel that is near the Canadian border and five miles from Birch Bay.
I was sitting pondering the sunrise at 6 one morning, sip-ping my coffee, reading a newspaper article headlined "Driving angry — all the rage is avoidable" and reflecting on the previous day's events. It had been one of those days. Everything and everyone had seemed to bug me.
I had chosen on Friday afternoon to drive in rush-hour traffic the 25 miles from Seattle to Edmonds, Wash. It had taken me more than two hours! The drivers all around me had cut me off; some had shaken their fist at me. It had been a tough day.
The combination of the previous day's events and insights from the article made me ponder how well I manage mentally behind the wheel. I started writing in my journal. Clarity emerged when I made a list of the 10 types of people who bug me.
It hit me like a 2-by-4 across the forehead. As I began to get honest with myself, I had to admit I am any one of these people on any given day, and I am just as guilty as they are, which really bugs me! Here is my list:
- Cutters. You know these people. When they are in their cars, they drive in the commuter lane with no passengers and, with less than a car's length, they swerve in front of you and then give you half a peace sign!
- Honkers. These are the drivers who use their horn to let you know how they feel about you. At the light, in rush hour traffic or in the parking lot, they are just honking away. If you have traveled a great deal, you no doubt noticed the bigger the city, the greater the frequency of honking. Every honk has a distinct message based on length, tone, pace and frequency. We know exactly what they mean!
- Yackers. Whether it's on their cell phones in the movie theater during the movie or waiting in line at Starbucks, they are the self-important people who are trying to impress all of us with their conversation.
- Loud talkers. They are kissing cousins to the Yackers. Some know they are loud and do it deliberately. Still others are that way out of habit and are oblivious. Nonetheless, it gets under my skin. Tone it down, pal!
- Sentence finishers. This impatient lot can't stand anyone who isn't talking as fast as they think you should be speaking. They jump in and finish your sentence like little kids waiting to jump rope on the playground.
- Busybodies. They are world class at minding everyone else's business. They always have the latest gossip, true or not. They are bored, lazy, selfish and love to tell you all the things that are wrong with your hair, clothes, yard, opinion, car or children.
- Shoulders. They are closely related to the busybodies and, boy, do they let you know what is wrong. Sometimes we are related to these people and that makes family gatherings tough. The good news is these people "should" on everyone; it's not personal!
- Flakes. They don't respect anyone's time, least of all their own. They are always late for appointments or meetings, always with excuses. It's always someone else's fault. Their motto is, "If at first you don't succeed, set the blame quick!"
- Frontline slackers. These are generally (but not always) teenagers working a retail front counter. They are on the phone or talking to a friend when you walk up to give them your hard-earned money. They keep talking like you're not there! The message is clear. What I am doing is far more important than you, the customer. If you assert yourself, they get offended, roll their eyes or say, "Ugghh," with that guttural tone that implies disgust.
- Hotel clerks from hell. OK, so that's a little extreme, but here is what they do. You are right there in front of them. You got in your car (or on an airplane or two, traveling across the country) to be there, you have a reservation with a credit card (which, by the way, the hotel has already billed for the entire three days) and just want to check in. The phone rings, from a person who does not have a reservation, is just shopping price and isn't even really a prospect, and they stop helping you and answer all 47 questions that person has, which usually takes 15-20 minutes, only to find out he will get back to them!
Maybe I am getting a little worked up, but hey, haven't we all experienced these people in one form or another? Taken separately or alone, they generally don't bother most people too much. However, combine four or five of these people in a day and watch out.
We get steamed, hacked off, annoyed, incensed, irate, sore, bothered, peeved or vexed. It's only human.
After the list was complete, I felt better just by claiming those experiences and giving them a name. That led to realizing I judge and criticize more than I am willing to admit. If I judge or criticize for too long, I can easily transition into resentment or self-pity. If allowed to percolate long enough, it can lead to anger and, God forbid, rage. So what to do?
I remembered reading Ben Franklin's autobiography 20 years ago. He was among other things a scientist. He created a system. He wrote:
"I entered upon the execution of this plan for self-examination and continued it with occasional intermissions for some time. I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. I concluded contrary habits must be broken and good ones acquired and established. I always carried my little book with me (to measure my progress)."
He identified 13 virtues he wanted to assimilate over his lifetime. But it all started with a strong desire to over-come a bad habit. He believed, "Where performance was measured, performance improves." The key was, "Measurable progress in reasonable time." Displacement was the answer, combined with a system and persistence.
So, how can I displace the bad habits of judgment, criticism, resentment, self-pity and anger with something positive? As I drove back home, I began to reflect. It must be simple. It must be easy to remember. It must be something I am willing to do. Simple! That was it! An acronym, S.I.M.P.L.E., might mean:
S = Shrug it off. When someone offends me in any way, the key for me is to deal with each little transgression one at a time. So I hunch up my shoulders, shrug it off and say, "Oh well," aloud with a smile.
I = Ignore the response, look or comment. If I don't fan the flames, there can be no conflict, hurt feelings or drama.
M = Move on! Let it go and shift gears. It's not worth letting someone else rent space in my brain.
P = Praise my progress, either aloud or on paper. Acknowledge the change in behavior, as I would with children if they did the right thing! If it's to be, it's up to me.
L = Love and tolerance is my code.
Like a declaration or goal, by saying it aloud many times a day, I create a new self-image. A new thermostat setting. Words trigger pictures that bring about positive emotion, which if repeated often and long enough form new behavior.
E = Enjoy the rest of the day!
As I was scratching out this new technology, a wonderful new teacher cut me off and afforded an opportunity to test my new theory. Five more times over the ensuing two-hour drive, more teachers.
By the time I arrived home, I was in a very different emotional state than I had been previously. It worked! For the next week, I kept doing it. Ben Franklin was right. Now the real test, SIMPLE for a lifetime.
There is an ancient Chinese lesson about a master and his pupil:
"The student showed up at the master's house and was invited to sit and enjoy some tea. As the master was pouring the student noticed a large stick in the other hand of the master. 'What is the stick for?' the student asked. 'This is your lesson for today. If you pick up the cup of tea I will hit you with the stick. If you don't pick up the tea, I will hit you with the stick.' The student thought for a minute, silently arose, smiled at the master and walked out of the room without touching the tea. The master smiled. Message delivered, message received. Lesson learned."
Many times in difficult situations we feel like the student, caught in a double bind. There is always a solution if we take some time to think, smile and act in less obvious ways.
Many scientists now believe that if you "act as if, the feelings will follow." A conscious change in behavior will change how you feel.
Here is a list of alternative positive behavior you can choose to engage in when you feel annoyed. All of them have a positive effect on our soul:
- Breath deeply;
- Count backward from 100;
- Take a time out (walk away, pull over, disengage);
- Listen to calming music;
- Call a friend;
- Write in your journal;
- Go help someone less fortunate than you;
- Forgive and forget;
- Pray for that person;
- Take a seminar;
- Read a book;
- Go for a swim;
- Play with your dog or cat;
- Water the plants;
- Go for a long walk.
One friend of mine asks a very simple question, "How important is this really?" It's a great question. I also like, "Would I rather be right or happy?" It really comes down to that.
Each of us needs to find something that works for us. I don't know what works for you. I now believe the key lies in simplicity because most solutions are simple.
Jim Rohn was right, "I can't change my destination overnight, but I can change my direction."
I can't wait to be dragged up to Birch Bay again. Say, maybe I'll buy some property. Wait a minute; I wonder if there are any Canadian Honkers, Yackers, Shoulders or Flakes up there?
Mark Matteson is an industry consultant, speaker and writer. He can be reached by phone at 877/ 672- 2001, e- mail at psgmarkm@ msn. com or fax at 425/745-8981. His Website is www.mattesonavenue.com