Case Stories: from Flustered to Focused
from Flustered to Focused
How do you surpass the frenetic and frazzling feeling of being flustered with the cool empowering clarity of focus?
Feeling occasional nervousness and anxiety is regarded a non-medical condition and an occupational hazard of daily life. Web MD cites occurrences such as problems at work, taking tests, or important decision making as typical causes of such occasional anxiety which can leave us feeling nervous and flustered in the moment. It is important to clarify that it is this form of occasional, coachable, and non-medical anxiety to which this article is addressed.
Feeling flustered can seem like an internal state of chaotic confusion. It is an irony that in a world where we spend so much time not being present in the moment we are forced to experience the moment in great exceptional detail under a bout of emotional agitation when feeling flustered.
Feeling focused, by contrast, is feeling centered and capable. Focus is logical and strategic; a plan, an action. Focus is empowering and comes with a feeling of control.
Put in context…
Elise is sitting in a corporate waiting room ten minutes before her job interview is due to begin. Her palms are sweating, her heart is thumping, her stomach is churning, and she is frantically trying to remember everything she wants to remember for the interview…and failing… She is also wondering why she even bothered to come. It’s bound to go wrong. She can feel it…
When Elise applied for the job two weeks before she felt very different. She felt calm and excited. She planned her application with detail and took joy in the process. She felt confident that she was a great candidate for the job, having the preferred education, experience and work ethic outlined in the job description. She knew she was respected and liked by superiors at her current position and that her references would be strong. She felt within every right to propose herself for this next step in her career. She sent her application and thought nothing more of the matter until she received a phone call inviting her to interview.
The week between receiving the call and the interview saw increasing fireworks of fear erupt throughout Elise’s daydreams. What if she wasn’t ready? What if she was wasting their time? What if she froze and couldn’t speak?
What had changed?
The focus Elise had felt when she applied for the job had changed to fluster. Yet, She was still the same person with the same ability...
Elise felt confident during the application process where she could apply the facts of her experience to her truth in knowing her relevance as a candidate. The shift from her empowering perspective came when the mystery surrounding the interview began to fester in her imagination.
Elise fluffed the interview. She rode the bus home feeling despondent and frustrated. She knew she would have been a great choice for the job. She knew she had everything the employers were asking for. She also knew she had spent the interview in a state of fluster, too consumed with anxiety to process the interviewers questions, and subsequently unable to respond because she hadn’t heard the question.
Elise was annoyed with herself for falling foul to fluster. She went home, ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, drank half a bottle of Sauvingon Blanc, sent seven regrettable texts to her louse of an ex-boyfriend, and cried herself to sleep still wearing her interview outfit. She woke up the following morning with the indentation of a cell phone in her left cheek, several text messages she was afraid to open, and a dripping ice cream carton upended on the lap of her new Rick Owens pencil skirt.
The Ladder of Inference
In the 1990’s Business Theorist Chris Argyris developed a tool that allows us to view the impact of our assumptions on the framework of our facts. ‘The Ladder of Inference’ uses a ladder model to view how what begins as ‘Reality and Fact’ can morph through our own selected reality, interpreted reality, assumptions, the drawing of our own conclusions, and resulting adjusted beliefs, into actions based a few steps (or several rungs) away from the actual (and original) reality.
This can cause a belief that seems valid, but that is rather lost in translation, having leached heavily from our personal backlog of emotion.
We climb the ladder without realizing. It is one of those freaky mind things that happens when time and emotions mingle. When aware of the potential of this process we have the opportunity to intercept it and prevent it, and acknowledge our emotional contributions to the resulting ‘truth’.
The Story Continues…
Elise took a new approach for her next job interview. She followed the same method as before in her job application, but also took time to acknowledge herself for reaching the level of education and experience that allowed her to make the application. When she received the call inviting her for an interview she decided to learn from her previous situation and address the non-serving emotions that had crept into the interview with her like cartoon Scooby Doo ghouls.
She asked herself why the interview process had caused her to fluster and was surprised to discover that it wasn’t that she didn’t believe she could do the job, she just didn’t trust herself not the ruin everything when put on the spot in the interview under pressure. Elise recalled several times in the past where she had felt under pressure and said or done things that she felt awkward about afterwards. So this was that rung on the ladder...
Deciding that it was not her fate to frizzle under pressure, Elise self identified and embarked on a mindful routine of daily meditation and daily self acknowledgement of her abilities. She practiced anchoring exercises where she imagined herself in the interview feeling calm, capable, and poised to answer all questions with confidence and self assurance. She decided to regard the interview process as a project, and approached it as she might any other project. The feelings of strategy and purposethat followed empowered Elise with a sense of control. She did it her way. As she knew best. Waiting for the interview this time, Elise felt focused and prepared.
Professional Certified Life Coaches believe that their clients are the experts of their lives and know deep down what needs to be addressed, thus Elise curated her solution as such, with support, camaraderie and clever, considered, unbiased questions from her coach. Professional Life Coaches also never divulge the secrets, experiences, or identities of their clients, and while Elise is as fictional as her crappy ex-boyfriend and the ice cream stain on her skirt, many of my clients have found comfort and motivation from her tale.
All information, questions, and suggestions contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in place of the advice of your physician, therapist, or any other health care professional.
This article first appeared at Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global