You Get What You Get, But You Can Get Upset
Given all the years I worked with young kids, I can’t begin to guess how much I’ve said “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” It makes sense, right? I mean, someone’s gonna get a slightly bigger cookie, but you’re not gonna go dessert-less. Someone’s gonna get to the red blocks first but there will still be plenty of blue ones to play with.
But lately I’ve realized this isn’t always the best lesson for kids—or for anyone. I’m not saying we should start throwing temper tantrums when we don’t get what we want, but acknowledging our feelings and understanding why they’re there is a powerful way to help us get on the right track.
This means allowing ourselves to experience all our emotions. And if you’re one of the many who’d rather squelch those not-so-fun feelings, I urge you to feel them anyway. After all, research has shown emotions only take 90 seconds to run their course. That’s it.
Plus, if you choose to tamp down those feelings, I can pretty much guarantee stuff will build up until one day you suddenly explode, causing some serious fallout.
So…that minute and a half of discomfort sounding any better?
I’m gonna assume your answer’s yes. I’m also gonna guess you’re imagining yourself happily getting back to business after those 90 seconds.
Not so much.
Now it’s time to look at why those feelings came up in the first place. If you don’t understand the reason they’re there and make the necessary changes, they’ll continue to show up until you get the message—kinda like a real-life version of “Groundhog Day.”
So let’s say you’re upset about being passed over for a promotion. Are you mad because your manager doesn’t have your back? Because you know you have more experience than the person who got the job? Because you genuinely didn’t do what you needed to in order to climb the corporate ladder? Clearly, each of these reasons would lead to different actions.
Regardless of your particular situation, homing in on why you’re feeling what you’re feeling will help you figure out the next steps you need to take. And, for the record, your next steps should feel good, even if there’s some nervousness around them. If it feels like what you should do rather than what you want to do, PLEASE stop and reconsider before making any moves!
* * *
In the end, feelings are just a way for our hearts to alert us to what’s really going on—and that goes for all the emotions.
Whenever something brings up emotions that feel good—happiness, excitement, calmness, etc.—your heart’s telling you you’re on the right track. Yay, you! Keep going!
But if, for example, you’re not excited about something you think you should be excited about, that’s a sign you’re following your head, not your heart. (In general, the word “should” tends to be a giveaway that your head’s taken the lead.)
And if something brings up emotions that aren’t so enjoyable, it’s a sign that it’s time to do a little soul searching.
**WE NOW INTERRUPT YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POST
TO BRING YOU A POWERFUL SELF-COACHING TOOL**
A great way to figure out the real reason for your feelings is to write a sentence that explains the situation, then substitute yourself for any third parties.
What this looks like—a real life application:
When I was dealing with a difficult time at an old job, my sentence was:
I feel angry with management
because they aren’t listening to me.
Given the circumstances, it made sense that I would feel that way. However, the huge shift came when I did the second part of this exercise:
I feel angry with myself
because I’m not listening to me.
At that time in my life, every part of me was yelling at me to resign: I had all kinds of health issues, my tears were uncontrollable, my brain could barely manage basic tasks, and my hands would often spontaneously spell out “I quit” (and various expletives) using the American Sign Language alphabet.
I knew exactly what my heart was telling me, yet I continued to stay because I gave into the fear-filled thoughts about all the bad things that might happen if I quit. Subconsciously, I was absolutely pissed at myself for doing this.
My epiphany helped me understand what was really going on and what to do about it. With time, it also helped me let go of those strong emotions, understand that everyone involved was just doing their best (including me), and feel grateful for that tough situation that taught me so much and ultimately pushed me out of the nest so I could fly.
Think about something you’re dealing with that brings up strong emotions. Then fill in the blanks below:
I feel ___________at ___________because _______________.
Now write that same sentence, but replace others’ names/”he”/”she”/”they” with your name/”I”/”me.”
I feel ___________at ___________because _______________.
Maybe this exercise will get you clearer on what action you need to take. Maybe it will inspire you to get help. But whatever comes of it, chances are it’ll ultimately lead you to a situation that feels a heck of a lot better than the one you’re in right now.
**WE NOW RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POST**
Our culture tends to label anger, fear, etc. as bad emotions, but there is no such thing as a bad emotion. Feelings are just your heart communicating with you, trying to help you understand what’s really going on and keep you going in the right direction. Simply put, emotions = information.
So the next time you’re distressed, take a deep breath and know it’s just your heart lovingly saying, “You get what you get, but it’s okay to get upset. Now go ahead and feel your feelings, find out why they’re showing up, and use that knowledge to decide where to go from here.”
creative commons image by Megan Dougherty https://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusdigity/141542344/
What if, one day,
we all turned off our brains
and instead gave our hearts
full control of the reins?
Would you listen to shouldn’ts,
to can’ts, or to don’ts?
Would you think “That sounds great!”
then decide “But I won’t.”?
Would you let fear and worry
keep holding you back?
Ignore all the good stuff
and focus on lack?
Would you keep your true self
hiding deep down inside?
Give up on your dreams and say,
“Oh well, I tried.”?
Would you skip your to-do list
to do something fun?
Would you have a great time
with your favorite someone?
Would you say yes to things
that sound downright delightful
and say no to stuff that sounds
boring or frightful?
Would you do what it took
to make big dreams come true?
Would you let the world see
the unique, awesome YOU?
Now what if you lived your life
this way instead?
If you let your heart lead you
in place of your head?
You’d still get things done
(I can promise you this),
but you’d feel more joy,
more fulfillment, more bliss.
It’s not always easy,
so start with one thing—
just let your heart guide you
and see what it brings.
Through baby steps,
go towards what feels like love,
and one day you’ll be living
the life you’ve dreamed of.
What Happened When I Ignored My Heart: A Cautionary Tale
creative commons image by Evil Erin | https://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/3796279865/
“The decision has been made rather than giving you a choice.”
My stomach dropped. Every muscle in my body tensed. I kept thinking, “This can’t be happening!”
I was being put into a new position. A position I’d told various managers I didn’t want for the past decade. A position I’d told this particular manager I didn’t want a mere five weeks earlier when the topic had casually (or so I’d thought) come up.
Despite all this, I didn’t feel like there was any malice behind management’s decision. I believed her when she said management thought it was a great opportunity for me. I appreciated that they recognized my skills. I was grateful they wanted me to grow in my career.
But the second I was back in my cube, I closed off the entrance and started sobbing as quietly as I could.
The problem was that this particular “growth” was going in the exact opposite direction of where my soul wanted to go. I would be putting programs together from previously created work, not creating from the ground up. I would be working on more serious projects, not using my full voice, which tends to include a fair amount of humor. I would have days filled with meetings, not the freedom and flexibility I longed for (and worse, I’d lose the weekly flex day I’d had the past few years). And to pour salt on the wound, my workload and responsibility would increase by a sizeable amount, but my paycheck would remain the same because it was technically a lateral move.
I made a long list of all the reasons this wasn’t the right situation for me. I met with the manager again and respectfully went through them all, reminding her about our previous discussion. She reasoned every single objection away. Again, it wasn’t in a mean or rude way; I truly believe she was trying to help me look past what she saw as apprehension to see the good in the opportunity. She just didn’t seem to realize that was never going to happen.
Instead, I was given noise-cancelling headphones and a laptop to help me deal with the loudness of my new environment. I was also told that if I hated the new job, I could return to my previous position. (I later found out wasn’t an option after all, although it didn’t really matter since by then I had no desire to go back.)
That first week went by in a blur of barely-controlled fury, uncontrolled tears, and trying every coaching tool in the book. Despite several open and respectful conversations, it was clear that my vision for my career didn’t matter.
At the end of the day, management just wanted me on board and excited about the new position. And they wanted me to actually say that I’d take it, even though it had been made clear that this was happening no matter what. I felt completely unheard, disrespected, and betrayed.
The thing was, the original declaration had been wrong: the decision had been made, but I DID have a choice. I could stay, or I could go.
I chose to stay.
I gave in to the litany of fearful thoughts, mostly around not having enough money. The idea of relinquishing my salary and benefits scared the hell out of me.
So instead of resigning, I used the few weeks before starting the new position as best I could: venting to willing listeners, getting coached, and doing massive amounts of self-coaching. Clearly, this job switch was happening, and I wanted to start it with as open a mind and heart as possible.
To be honest, the coaching didn’t work how I’d hoped. I wanted to make everything feel okay, but life coaching isn’t about making wrong situations feel right, it’s about helping you listen to your intuition. And my intuition loudly and continuously told me this was the Universe’s way of pushing me out of the nest without actually pushing me—it was up to me to take the ultimate leap.
Still, I wasn’t ready to jump just yet. Instead, I updated my resume, started a serious job hunt, and took my life coaching marketing up a few notches.
Meanwhile, as I transitioned into the new position, it quickly became apparent that the job was even worse than I’d thought. There was more minutiae than I’d ever imagined, and I found it both incredibly frustrating and exceedingly boring. On a personal level, things went from bad to worse.
Health issues that had been a moderate inconvenience started getting more severe. New stuff showed up to the party, too, including horrible pain in my wrists that began about five minutes into my first task in the new position.
I cried multiple times a day—in my cube, in bathroom stalls, in my car—sometimes having to rush away from meetings before the tears started flowing. (And I’m normally not a crier.)
I'd be sitting with my team or walking down the hall and my shoulder would suddenly start twitching. Mostly, I could stop it, but there were times when the best I could do was minimize the intensity and hope that no one noticed.
The one positive was getting to meet and work with some really great people, but I also felt guilty about bringing down the group’s energy since I couldn’t fake happiness to save my life.
And pretty much every second of every day, I resisted the urge to scream “I QUIT!!” and run from the building.
After about three months of pushing through with no new job opportunities in sight, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically wrecked. I took advantage of every opportunity to use my long list of self-coaching tools. They worked great in the moment, but the positive effects vanished the second I had to get back to work. I went to so many medical appointments, I don’t think I worked a 40-hour week once in three months.
Ultimately, my doctor and I agreed that I needed medical leave. I spent two weeks going to various medical appointments and resting as much as I could. It helped a bit, but I could still feel the massive stress of the situation as if it were an angry grizzly bear sitting on my chest.
At the end of my leave, my doctor gave me the letter saying I could return to work. I thanked her, but as soon as she left, I froze. Eventually I managed to head for the door, but a kind word from a nurse sent me sobbing and making a beeline back into the cold comfort of the exam room until I calmed down.
And yet again, I let thoughts like “But I have to go back to work” override the message my soul was so clearly shouting at me.
At work the next day, I stumbled through meetings and training and writing goals, all while dealing with a horrible pain in my stomach. The anger and frustration had me tearing up more times than I could count, and during the drive home, I had to pull over on the freeway because I was bawling so hard I’d started to hyperventilate.
Eventually, I made it home. As I was standing in the kitchen, my mom said something that, had I been in a different state, would’ve made me feel a little annoyed. Instead, it infuriated me. I yelled at her (unlike me), threw the water bottle I had in my hand (very unlike me), and collapsed into an inconsolable puddle of sobs and gasps. It was the explosion that had been waiting and wanting to happen ever since I’d first found out about the job change.
The next morning, I emailed my boss that I’d tried to come back too soon. I called my doctor and got a week extension on my medical leave. I spent most of that time resting, journaling, and talking with some of the wonderful, supportive people I’m so lucky to have in my life.
And I finally accepted that the time had come for me to quit.
I went back to work a week after my meltdown. I showed up calm, clear, and ready to give my resignation, effective that day. I knew there was no way my body could handle the traditional two weeks’ notice; sure enough, within a few minutes of being in the building, a new, searing pain started shooting from my lower abdomen, up my side, and down my arm. This was not anxiety about my decision; it was my body yelling at me to get the fuck out. The only way to lessen the pain was to repeatedly promise that within a few hours, I’d be gone for good.
I gave my notice, cleaned out my cube, and left the building for the last time. Surprisingly, quitter’s remorse kicked in during the drive home. Variations on the thought “You'll run out of money!” started reverberating in my head. I knew it wasn't the truth, just my terrified lizard brain desperately wanting to keep me safe. I gave my lizard free rein to voice its fears, and after five minutes, it calmed down. The regret was gone—forever.
* * *
In both my career and in my personal life, I live by the following principle: I can't possibly know what's right for someone else, and no one else can possibly know what’s right for me.
Despite coming from a good place, management’s insistence that this was the right move for me and their continued disregard for my repeated objections just intensified the anger, resentment, and frustration I felt.
However, the suffering I endured was all on me. I chose to stay. I chose to ignore my inner wisdom. I chose to allow people to treat me in a way went against the core of who I am.
It didn’t have to be that way. I knew better. I knew exactly why my health was declining and what I needed to do to change that. And yet I let the fear win over and over again.
But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned so much, and I truly believe that everything happened exactly how it was supposed to. This was the experience I needed to understand once and for all that it’s not just important to follow my heart—it’s imperative.
And now, after many months, I’m at the point where I can fully appreciate all the good things that came from being employed by that company: working and becoming friends with incredibly talented and generous people, growing both personally and professionally in ways that will serve me well for the rest of my life, and participating in so many wonderful opportunities I otherwise would never have had. And in the end, I'm also incredibly grateful to the managers: their actions gave me that push I needed to finally fully get myself out into the world.
It hasn’t been an easy path since I left, but even during the hardest parts, I’ve never doubted that I made the right decision. My health is vastly improved. I feel freer, clearer, and happier than I’ve ever been. And regardless of where this road takes me, I know I’m living in my truth and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
And that, my friends, was worth it all.
Clearly, listening to your heart can be a difficult thing to do,
but I promise you, it's the best gift you could ever give yourself.
If you'd like some help learning this life-changing skill,
go ahead and schedule a session with me here.
All potential new clients get a free 30-minute consultation session,
and all sessions are over the phone, so location isn't an issue.