For three days, I felt horrible.
A client who makes unreasonable requests and refuses to mend his ways made another one. It messed up my mood. And that doesn’t happen often.
But my mood didn’t turn sour because of the request. (I cannot control how people behave.) It turned sour because of three reasons which had to do with my own actions.
First, I often caved in to his requests. Second, if I turned down a request, I had to justify myself which led to lengthy debates. Third, I followed steps one and two over and over again although I abhorred doing either.
This created a huge internal conflict over who I was and who I wanted to be.
We often encounter unpleasant situations in life. Unreasonable requests at work or in our personal spaces. Sudden detours while pursuing goals we’re passionate about. Things turning out the opposite of how we hoped.
Most of us resign to the way things are because we don’t know how to approach such situations. Advice like “Stop taking stress” or “Be more happy/grateful” is as useless as a doctor telling a patient to “be more healthy.”
But here’s a difficult truth to digest.
Not addressing such situations causes anxiety and chronic stress in the long-term. We compromise who we are and hate the person we become, who is nothing compared to the person we hoped to become.
Nobody wants to live such a life.
What we need is a feeling of control… a feeling where our thoughts and actions affect the outcomes in our lives and mental spaces to a large extent. According to research, people who feel a sense of control in their lives are 66% likelier to report feeling happy and satisfied.
This control stems from clarity — the ability to identify what we must do to achieve our goals — which in turn, stems from a framework to achieve it.
Here’s a three-step framework I follow to address situations that wreak havoc in my mind. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, but it works for me.
Step 1. Make a decision.
“Experience has proved to me… the enormous value of a decision. It’s the inability to stop going round and round in maddening circles, that drives men to nervous breakdowns and living hells.” — Galen Litchfield
We often avoid pondering over what we should do or keep putting off what we know we must do out of the fear of getting pushed outside our comfort zone. And we value our comfort zone more than anything, even money.
In my example, I gave in to the client’s unreasonable demands since it seemed like the sensible thing to do. After all, we had to retain them because we didn’t enough clients at that time.
Here’s the catch.
My previous stint as a freelancer had ended for the same reason. I gave into most demands of two clients since it kept me in my comfort zone. As a result, I didn’t pursue new clients.
When both clients decided to part ways, I had to take up a job.
If history repeated itself, what did I learn?
So I decided to put my foot down and tell the client that we could either deliver results or keep giving into his constant demands.
When you figure out what you want and why you want it, the decision becomes as clear as a bright spring afternoon.
Step 2. Make a Plan B.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” — Robert Burns
Expecting things to pan out the way we want is nothing short of delusional.
Once we make a decision, we must accept the consequences also. That’s why we must also prepare as much as possible for things to go south.
While I hoped my client would shape up, I couldn’t control if he chose to leave. And I would’ve had to bear the responsibility of losing the client.
So right from day 1, I’ve aimed that Content Sutra is never at the mercy of a few clients. We keep working on systems to generate leads and engage with them. In the last week alone, I’ve held nine discussions, seven of which appear promising. In the last month alone, we landed three new clients.
Such results make it easier for me to stick to my decisions with conviction.
When you have a Plan B, sticking to decisions that authentic you approves become simpler.
Step 3. Do what the present moment demands.
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” — Thomas Carlyle
It’s tempting to overthink decisions about unpleasant situations. What if Plan B fails? Is it worth rocking the boat?
But worrying about the past or future gives people something to do without getting them anywhere. It makes people neglect what they should do in the present moment. As work keeps piling, anxiety keeps building until it turns into a full-blown meltdown.
The consequences of your actions will play out with time. Study them, learn from them, and make yourself better. But don’t sacrifice what’s important in the present moment.
I wanted to call my client and give him a piece of my mind. But with emotions running high, I could’ve made matters worse. Instead, I looked at my to-do list and finished the tasks listed on them. We would speak when the time was right.
Each completed task made me feel calmer. By the time the client and I spoke, I was in better control of my emotions.
Do what the present moment demands and move ahead. Everything will play out when the time is right.
The discussion with the client went smoothly. I felt great because I had defeated aggression without getting aggressive.
People will not behave the way you want. Situations won’t play out the way you hope. Expecting otherwise is a recipe for misery and unhappiness.
Accept it. Focus your energy on what you should do to improve your future, even if it makes you uncomfortable in the present moment.
In the long term, you’ll achieve peace of mind, which is deeply underrated.