One of the challenges a business owner faces is the appropriateness of his/her reactions to situations. When something goes wrong or not as well as desired, an overworked and stressed business owner can respond in an unproductive manner.

For some business owners, the “natural” response is not really the response they would want to give if they were taking the long view. So, after the response, they go and apologize to whomever they unintentionally made feel bad.

I tended to fit this pattern. And I did not like it. So I tried some classic methods for creating some space between the stimulus (the “bad” news) and my response. The longer that distance, the more likely the response would be one that I could feel good about in the big picture.

I tried taking several deep breaths. I tried counting to 10 or more. I tried walking around the block. None of these worked to calm me down as much as I wanted and needed to be.

Being a physical person who started off as a carpenter, I realized I needed to do something that would take all my attention and get out of me the frustration that I was trying to manage.

So the next time another piece of news came to me that something had gone not as well as it was supposed to, I went into the shop. I picked up a sledge hammer and a scrap of wood. I took these items out to the parking lot outside our office.

I then used the sledge hammer to turn the scrap of wood into splinters.

After destroying the piece of wood, I would clean up and dispose of the splinters and take the sledge hammer back to the shop. Coming into the office, I couldn’t help but notice a giggle or two from the people working in the company who had seen the whole process unfold.

Frankly, as a drop or two of sweat dripped off my brow, I had to agree that what I just did was kind of humorous, too!

The fact is that, for me, blowing the frustration out of myself by engaging in that brief period of intense activity was just the ticket for getting back to a more measured state. With that reset of my perspective, I could then deal with the matter at hand in a more objective, results-oriented manner without the risk of alienating anybody.

What I had done was use the space between the call delivering the “bad” news and my response to adjust my attitude so I would be more likely to come up with a response that fit what I wanted my legacy to be. I did not want to continue to be seen as a highly reactive angry person so I had to take responsibility to make a different choice when presented with the same stimulus.

Did it work all the time? No. But it worked most of the time.

What do you struggle with? What sets you off? Do you get upset but you stuff that frustration, trying to avoid acknowledging how distracted and irritated you are?

You owe it to yourself and the people you work with to be who you WANT to be, not who you HAVE BEEN. Find those moments when you can make a different choice and catch yourself enjoying life irrespective of what is happening to you because you did so!