It is perhaps too much of a certainty in life that we allow too many minor matters to greatly impact our day and those around us.
Zig Ziglar famously told a “cat kicking” story to illustrate how our approach to life’s inconveniences can affect everyone around us.
Here’s a slightly modified version of the story. A business owner wanted to inspire his employees, so he assembled everyone at a meeting, gave an inspirational speech, and promised to lead by example. Then, the following happened.
- The business owner was late coming back from his lunch break. He got a ticket for speeding and missed a scheduled appointment.
- Upset and angry, the business owner called his sales manager into his office and lambasted him for losing a big account.
- The sales manager left the boss’ office dejected and upset. He spoke harshly to his administrative assistant.
- The administrative assistant went home still angry and unfairly yelled at his son.
- The son became upset and kicked the family cat.
For the most part, we have allowed our lives to be consumed by this “cat kicking” philosophy. When we react without thinking, we often act in ways that cause more harm than good to ourselves and others.
So, what can be done to help us control these urges that, in the end, cause the most innocent among us to suffer? Here are some leadership tips that will help you avoid “kicking the cat.”
#1: Stop, take a deep breath, and refocus.
This might take some practice to remember, so consider creating a calendar reminder to breathe deeply at intervals throughout the day, no matter what kind of day you’re having. Inhale for four seconds, and hold for seven seconds before releasing your breath. Repeat this four times or until you feel calmer. You can also place a palm on your stomach to feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
#2: Find some humor.
Laughter can soften even the toughest situations. In two separate studies, healthy forms of humor such as telling jokes and using humor to make people feel better about themselves were shown to decrease stress. (Meanwhile, self-defeating humor, in which people make jokes at their own expense, tended to increase stress and was associated with lower levels of social support.) If you will look for any part of humor in your situation, you just may find it.
#3: Realize there are worse issues.
Your day may be trying, but there’s almost always someone coping with bigger stresses, pressures, and trauma. When you put things into perspective, you will find your issues are not that complicated.
#4: Let go and move on.
Noted theologian, author, and speaker Norman Vincent Peale had a great saying about adversity. He proclaimed often that you must convince yourself “it will be a better day tomorrow.” The past should never hold you back, but should provide you with the experience and determination to think, more importantly, about what lies ahead. We will never be able to change the past, but we can control our reactions to the present, which can influence our future for the better.
There is a well-known phrase that says, “What goes around, comes around.” What if that go around/come around was not frustration and stress but acceptance and balance? It could make a difference – and it just may save a poor defenseless cat! Give it a try.