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Psychologist | Speaker | Media Expert | Workplace Consultant | Researcher

The Power of 5 Minutes.
(February 25th, 2019)

Recently, I heard a variant of the “don’t let a few seconds ruin your day” message that really resonated with me – it was about not letting 5 minutes ruin or taint the rest of your day. Now the message isn’t a new one, and it’s one I regularly teach – but something about this really clicked. I think it’s because I realized the day-to-day frustrations that have the potential to impact me do in actuality take up more than just a few seconds: a frustrating interaction with someone, a conversation about something upsetting, even spilling something on yourself as you head out the door already late. I think (most days!) I’m calm enough that it’s not just something that happens for a few seconds that has the potential to ruin my day – it’s something that takes up a decently substantive amount of bandwidth…up to 5 minutes. 

This past week, I challenged myself to reflect on the power I gave 5 minutes. I had a frustrating interaction regarding an ongoing issue with a toxic family member – someone who has by all objective indices behaved and spoken in  highly offensive and disrespectful ways, on many occasions, over the course of now several years. Unfortunately – as with many of our extended family members, simply removing them from our immediate presence doesn’t eliminate the insidious impact they can continue to have through their words and statements, and this individual’s behaviour continues to be tolerated, reinforced and enabled by others – and the ripple effect on my immediate family unit (my hubby and I) continues. I found myself, after another (new) trigger this past week, ruminating & repeating the multi-year history with this individual in my mind. While working, while cleaning the house, while eating – both inside my own head, and in my conversations with my other half. 

I then caught myself – I was allowing the 5 minutes of the new trigger to impact my entire day (‘days’ plural, in fact).

The trigger was a new one – but it’s not the trigger that kept the momentum going. It was my repetition of all the litany of past things this individual has said and done, and the associated hopeless realization that I have zero ability to change it – and that the people who do have control have little to no interest in working to resolve or repair the situation. And so although the (5 minute) trigger, via a third party, was something I had zero control over – the rest of the hours of bandwidth and energy this person was taking up was only happening as I allowed it. So I made a firm commitment to allow myself to focus on the 5 minute trigger only – and exhausted thinking and venting about it – but vowed to become much more diligent with myself in not allowing the hamster wheel to give any more power than needed. Through the weekend I had to many times catch myself, but it’s amazing the freedom we can have once we can start to gain better, intentional control over where we allow our thoughts to go.

This week I invite you to consider the following: Each time an annoying, irritating, frustrating, discouraging thing happens, pause and and ask yourself  “how will I choose to let this 5 minutes impact the rest of my day?”

~ Dr. Joti

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