What Time Is It When An Elephant Sits On Your Fence?

Jan 13 2012
By: Doron York
Categories: Coaching Talk
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Okay, it’s an old joke that has been around for longer than both of us. If you are one of the few who have never heard it before, the answer is “Time to get a new fence”.

But, what does the joke have to do with this briefing?

When I heard the joke for the thousandth time repeated by my nephew the other day, I got to thinking that it really was a great analogy for our lives today. I know you may be thinking that I have gone and lost my mind, however stick with me for a moment

Think of yourself as the fence. You stand rigid, the guardian of all things inside your company. You are the protector, the leader, the financial manager and the keeper of all things valuable. You decide what internal influences require attention and what external influences you will allow inside.

You believe that you are a fence made of sturdy construction and able to weather any storm or turbulence, when along comes the elephant who decides that after an exhausting day, to take a short rest, right smack on the middle of your weakest point.

Alright, now let’s move past the picture in your head. Sorry about that. The elephant represents today’s challenges. For simplicity, let’s just call him “Stress”. And yes, the pun is intended.

These are trying times indeed. As we slowly creep towards an economic recovery, I doubt anyone will come out unscathed. Some will be affected more than others. When tested, our emotions run on high, our decisions impulsive, and our patience very thin. The question is, are we effectively navigating and managing our challenges?

“Stress” carries a big load and his trunk is filled (yea, intended again) and he is marching right towards you.

Stress generally comes in two different forms. There is that which we can’t do anything about. Some say death and taxes. I’ll add the decisions made or not made by others. Unless you’re making their mouth move with your hand or you’re a marionette, you can’t control what others say and or do.

Equally, there is self-imposed stress. That is the stress we put upon ourselves by the decisions that we make or don’t make each and every day. And, if we weren’t stressed enough by those decisions, we like to compound it by continually second guessing them.

So, we have a choice. Better manage stress, or let it consume us.

Firstly and most importantly, put things in perspective. Try to understand what is really important, and what is not. Are you the one I saw yelling at the grocery store clerk because the item was mispriced, even after she apologized? Or was that you screaming at the fast food cashier because you specifically asked for no onions, and damn it if they didn’t put onions on it.

Would you be humiliated by your behavior if they played the store video tape back and you were able to watch yourself on TV? Of course you would.

Is there one specific, yet simple tactic to modify our behavior? I don’t think so but, personally, I like to apply the ten second rule. I try to give myself ten seconds before I act or react. Let me get this out of the way right now, I can’t always do it. It’s not easy.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the consequences (good or bad) of my decision?
  • Will my actions cause unnecessary emotional strife?
  • How will the other party(s) perceive my decision?

And maybe most importantly,

  • Will I end up regretting my actions?

No, you can’t change other people. You can’t tell them how to react or how to interpret you. What you can do however is to be cognizant of their feelings and act or react in a manner which is well thought out and respectful. After you have done that, move on.

I remember reading a book many years ago and my apologies to the author for forgetting his name or even the title, where he quoted a story about General Dwight David Eisenhower. It seems that Eisenhower was asked how he was emotionally able to send thousands and thousands of troops off into battle clearly knowing that many of them would not return. Surely each of them had parents, many with siblings and children and that burden had to unbearable for him.

Eisenhower responded simply by saying “I sit down and analyze all the facts available to me at the time, make my decision, and most importantly I never look back”.

Don’t stress yourself out by over thinking and over analyzing situations. Make your decisions based on facts rather than emotion. Remember; don’t waste precious time and energy revisiting your decision.

Many stressful circumstances are indeed just that, because we have turned them into stressful circumstances. Learn to digest, analyze, and then react, rather than the other way around.

Just tighten a few of those loose screws (yea, did it again) and know that with just a little adjustment you can effectively manage any situation

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