The Anatomy of a "Freak-Out"

January 8, 2009

What exactly is a “freak-out”?
Why do we have them?
How can you benefit from one?

The first week back at work provided me with an opportunity to really give some thought to the above questions. Considering that we are all being affected by the recession and learning that more bad news may be on the way (at least in Fla.), it’s not too hard these days to personally experience a “freak-out” or help another person through one.

Beginning a “new year” brings with it many emotions. Getting back to work I observed some individuals ready to spring into new opportunities, others a bit tentative about what to do and where to start, and then a select few in “freak out” mode.

In this case, my definition of “freak out” is not only imagining the worst case scenario, but feeling it deeply and letting those emotions affect your day, your week, your month, and your future. Many times, it also can dramatically change the energy of those on your team, putting them in reactive mode instead of proactive mode.

So I gave some thought to what brings about this kind of reaction in people, one that can take someone off track and lose momentum. One reason is very obvious–FEAR. Fear of failure and fear of the unknown. The second reason that rings true for me is JUDGEMENT. Judging anything as good or bad automatically reduces the important activity of reasoning. The minute we judge something one way or another we leave no room for arguments otherwise; we have created a paradigm. In many cases we also make quick decisions which can be detrimental later. Worst for me, though, is not allowing for the opportunity of success. Success does not come overnight, it comes from sustained, thoughtful and energetic work.

Preventing one may not be as hard as it seems. The first step I’d like to propose to you is to learn how not to judge. This is hard at first, but it gets easier with practice. You can say to yourself, “This outcome is not good or bad, it just is.” Then, take the time to evaluate what opportunity you can take from this outcome. There is always an opportunity! I bet if you took the time to evaluate a past “freak-out” you would probably tell me what the opportunity was or could have been (if you allowed it).

The second step I’d like for you to consider is to be in the moment with the situation and with your emotions. Acknowledge them, name them, and talk to them (you may want to close your office door!). You can tell them to take a deep breath and calm down. You can then tell them to find the silver lining.

Finally, you can evaluate past situations that turned out just the way you wanted them to, identify the reasons why they were successful in your eyes, then take those same tactics and apply them to the current situation.

In following these three simple steps you will attack the onset of the “freak-out” and you will be in a proactive state of mind. Others can only benefit from your “state” and join you for the joy ride.

So, what if you are not able to avoid a “freak-out”? Pat yourself on the back for being human. We all have them. Again, if I follow my own advice, I will forgive myself for reacting this way, and I will use it as an opportunity to battle my fear head on and strengthen my intent for positive, proactive action. Some times we have to fall to stand up taller. 🙂

Remember, the New Year has barely fallen upon us. Have your “freak-out”, learn from it, get over it, and move forward with vigor and a deep intention to enjoy each day to the fullest.


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