With nervous energy, I am hyper-responsive. I hear the phone ring, and I am already processing my answer (even before I have said hello.) In the classic “fight response” (you remember fight or flight syndrome) I start acting and reacting before I really should. I might feel powerful – for a while.
I love to get strongly caffeinated. Sometimes I even travel into a zone where I am unsafe to travel with – too much coffee man – that’s me. Guess what’s happening to my nervous system at those moments – too much nervous energy leads to fatigue and need for recovery time.
I recommend adding mindfulness to the pattern of life. Mindfulness acts like a tonic, adding perception and soothing the nervous system at the same time. I can enter my mindfulness condition by asking myself a few questions:
What is going on here?
What is important for me to do right now?
Am I going so fast that I am missing something important?
The nervous system in fight mode prepares one for rapid action, changes in plans, and defensive maneuvers. Fighting is not the optimum mode for setting long-term plans, deploying resources under non-emergency conditions, or taking in more information.
The person in the mindful state looks at the situation – including the condition of the nervous system, and advises, “Let’s settle first. I don’t see an emergency. Let’s not act as if it is a threat to us.”
How to step down from priority red condition into an executive mode of calm review? Both styles of acting are needed, yet if one is not in a wartime condition, then the hypervigilant, nervous system response prepares one to take desperate action, and prepares one to do something irreversible.
If you are not in an emergency, then turn on the mindful state, and review what is going on.
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Steve Broe is an executive coach and author. He lives in Scottsdale Arizona. He answers the question, “How does leadership help people become successful?” in his new book, Leading the Way Up Mt. Olympus, now available on Amazon.