Unhinged – How Do You Act When Things Don’t Go Your Way?

Your flight has been delayed. You have a meltdown in the airport and yell at an airline employee. Unhinged.

You and a fellow colleague have a disagreement about how to handle something in the workplace. It escalates into a screaming match, laced with profanities. Unhinged.

Stopped at a light, you look down to check your phone and the light changes from red to green. The driver behind you lays on the horn, flips you a gesture and screams at you. As you start to drive, he passes you, glares at you and mouths some profanities. Unhinged.

Your son was out with a group of his friends and was caught throwing apples from a local apple tree at cars as they drove by. You scream, rant and pace as you address this with your son. Your son yells back. Unhinged.

So many people let the little aggravations, irritations and frustrations of life bring them to a meltdown. They scream, yell, swear, blame, insult and a boatload of other bad behaviors. I call that being unhinged. They haven’t learned how to be calm, respectful, resilient and responsible in a world they have to share with others, a world that sometimes includes things that don’t go as planned. 

There has been much talk of mindfulness in recent years. Good. We need it. Mindfulness is the process of learning to be present to what is going on and then responding (vs reacting) calmly and with intention in a way that makes the next moment, interaction, conversation, response better.

We need mindfulness because most of us are in habit mode – simply reacting to the events of life – and unaware that we are stuck doing the same unproductive behaviors over and over. We can’t even see that we are unhinged. It is important for us to learn how to stop to notice what is going on to then assess what is an effective outcome and how it can be achieved.  

See, until you learn that your responses are always up to you (no one makes you do anything. Things happen and you react or, when things happen, you more mindfully, intentionally and wisely respond). Getting from one to the other is the key to living a happy, successful and responsible life.

So, how do you become more mindful and less unhinged?

First, develop your ability to be aware. You can’t manage what you can’t see. Take a breath in each situation, such as when your flight is delayed, you have a difference of opinion with a colleague, someone is slow to respond to a green light, your kid does something inappropriate. Then, look to understand the situation, your emotions and the outcome you want. In this exact moment, ask yourself this question (a question I ask all CEOs to consider in the situations of their days): Who do I have to be and how do I have to act in this moment to get the outcome I want? It helps you shift from habit to intention. In that moment, you become less reactive. You see you don’t need to lose your cool as it won’t improve the situation or give you the outcome you want. You don’t become unhinged.

Here is the best part. When you are less unhinged and more self-managed, people respond to you differently. Look at those who are routinely unhinged, out of control and self-unmanaged. They aggravate, intimidate and ruin the relationships with those around them. Unhinged parents limit their relationships with their kids. Unhinged managers create disengaged employees who leave when they can. Unhinged spouses and partners end up in dysfunctional relationships or divorces. How likely are you to stay in a relationship with someone who is out of control or continually unhinged?

We see it in life, in the workplace and certainly in the government. Until you take control of yourself to respond differently to the irritations, aggravations and frustrations of work, life and relationships, you will find yourself unhinged, melting down over little things and aggravating yourself and those around you.

Take Action
Stop and notice the last time something got you to scream, rant, yell or be unhinged. Don’t justify your actions, simply understand the situation that inspired your reaction. Now consider, what other responses you could have had in the moment where you focused on the outcome, not on the reaction. For you to get a better outcome, you will need to develop your self-management. See it to start to change it.

Life is as it is – it will always have its challenges. However, if you take the time to choose your response, you will limit the time you feel and act unhinged.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading This Can’t Be It, Right?

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