Have you ever been using a knife and it slips out of your hand? What’s the first thing you do? Would you reach for it? Most people make this mistake once or twice, but later they know—from experience—to just step back and let it fall.
In a situation like this, things happen fast. You don’t have much time to think as your knife accelerates towards the floor at 9.8 m/s2. Perhaps we would have fewer accidents on the moon.
In many other situations, like how we react with people, there’s always time to think before we act. You may have heard the phrase, “Look before you leap.” It makes sense to watch what you are doing to prevent yourself from breaking a leg.
There is also the phrase, “Think before you speak.” I could name numerous people that don’t do this, but I won’t. Apparently, there is a filter between their brain and mouth, but on them, it doesn’t work.
The premise of pausing before we react should be a simple one to learn. When my kids were younger, they used to watch a show called Blue’s Clues (Nickelodeon 1996-2007). The host, Steve, and his puppy, Blue, aim “to empower, to challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers…all while making them laugh!” Hey, it was better than that creepy purple dinosaur.
In one episode, Blue is Frustrated, Blue faces some difficult situations that are rather frustrating. Steve shows him what to do when you get frustrated – “Stop, breathe, and think.”
These are three simple instructions to prevent you from making some disastrous mistakes, like shouting at a loved one, ranting on Facebook, or rioting in the streets.
Sometimes, if you just take that moment to pause, you can handle the situation that riled you up, in a calm and mature way. Trust me; no one will respect you when you are in the throes of a temper tantrum. You’ll only look like that two-year old, kicking and screaming on the supermarket floor.
I recently found a free app by the same name. Stop, Breathe & Think is a meditation app that helps you develop and apply kindness and compassion in your daily life through this same process.
- Stop what you are doing
- Practice mindful breathing
- Learn to broaden your perspective
This app should be front and center on your mobile device, right next to your call button. You should put Facebook, Twitter, and the like on a completely different screen.
If you think this is too difficult for you, consider that animals do this all of the time. They don’t freak out over everything. They stop, assess the environmental clues, and make the decision to fight or flee.
Imagine you come upon a skunk. If you are unlucky enough to catch one by surprise, you should know that you are lucky they don’t react like a high-strung teenager.
Skunks don’t want to spray you, and will only use this powerful defense if they can’t escape. They only have a limited amount of spay, and if the animal depletes its supply, it can take up to ten days to regenerate a full supply. This would leave it vulnerable to predators.
Skunks give warnings prior to spraying:
- They raise their tail
- They stamp their feet
- They turn their head and tail toward you, in a “U” shape
What they really want to do is scamper away as fast as possible, but they need to pause and make sure that it is worth wasting valuable spray.
Now think about that for a moment. If this cute little critter can make a mature decision, surely you can too. So remember, stop, breathe, and think, before you make a big stink.