Ep42: The Power of the Petty

27 minutes

Here you are, just trying to live your life, trying to use your brain to solve complex life problems or just navigate your way through Costco, and all you can think about is some unresolved conversation or situation that has lodged itself in the most obsessive part of your mind. As Eliot likes to say, you are letting someone else live rent-free in your mind.

In this episode, we discuss how to deal with these situations, and how to free up space for something more productive than trying to think of the perfect retort to an upsetting email.

Why is that important for business?

The magnitude of the obsession is usually inversely proportional to the size of the issue – the more petty and stupid the issue, the more space it gets in your mind.  

Then you get mad that you are irrationally mad at the petty thing.

This is not a recipe for a productive mind. And the reason it bothers us so much is that you now have to spend time and energy dealing with a situation that you would rather not dedicate brain forced to.  And it is dragging otherwise good neurons away from things that would be more useful to think about.

So how do you exorcize those obsessions?

Curiosity is – again - one of the answers. Often, if you wait long enough between your anger or irritation and your response so that you can frame the event in terms of questions instead of accusations, you will have better luck. It can be a challenge, but it is important to stop short of ascribing intent.

Borrow a technique from Brene Brown and use the phrase “this is the story that I am making up” when confronting an issue. It makes it clear to all parties that this is just what is happening in your head and gives them an opportunity to give a new perspective.

There are few things more important that how you manage your energy, time and thoughts. If something is draining energy from you, it is significant and worth noticing, and worth assessing – “is this person or thought worth taking up space in my brain?”

It’s also important, as a leader, to make sure that - as much as possible - no one is wasting energy needlessly because of you. If you tend to let others live rent-free in your head, you have to be aware of where you could be squatting in other people’s heads.

'You've made this day a special day, by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.'  - Mr. Rogers


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