So I’m minding my own business when I see an email from a colleague whom I admire. She’s having a blow-out sale. Her copywriting is really good. The sale sounds fantastic.
I don’t do sales, because I want people to know the price they pay will be the best price they can get. Still, the green-eyed monster woke up, and I started fantasizing about how much cooler she is than I, not to mention how much money she’s going to make because she is cooler.
Of course, that last bit about the money is utterly unacceptable. Thou must not think about money, even if thou art in business. Which, of course, made me feel just a little bit worse.
Yes. After 21 years of working for myself I still have those crazy thoughts.
Fortunately, when all this came down, the sun was shining. I had just had a very focused and productive morning, and my meditation had gone well. (I call meditation my daily failure. No sooner do I have a “good” session than I start grasping after the same experience. Oh well. It’s about the journey, right?)
The point is that the context in which this email arrived was supportive, and it only took me a minute (okay, 20 minutes) to realize that I could drop my less-than story and turn this into an object lesson. And now I’m going to share that lesson with you.
There are three things I want you to take away from this post:
1. Context matters.
2. You are the boss of context.
3. It gets easier.
Context is the source of judgment, understanding, insight, and all that stuff
When you react to something, it’s natural to think the problem is the thing itself or, perhaps, your interpretation of the thing. What you may not realize is that your interpretation arises out of a context.
And context matters. It has everything to do with what things mean and how you react.
Imagine that you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re doused with a bucket of cold water. How do you react?
Most people will be surprised and irritated, to say the least. They’ll feel assaulted in some way, even if the dousing was accidental. They will be wet, cold, and uncomfortable.
And they’ll think it was all about the bucket of water.
But let’s look again. Imagine that your team just won a hard-played soccer game. You’re hot, sweaty, and elated. Your manager runs up and, with a celebratory whoosh, douses you with a bucket of cold water.
Same bucket, new story, and it’s all because of the context. Context matters.
Context disarms even green-eyed monsters
The email that triggered my green-eyed monster arrived in a supportive context. Thanks to the sunshine, the World Series, and meditation, jealousy and fear didn’t take hold.
And I didn’t have to argue with the monster. I didn’t try to shift my thinking. All that happened was the the supportive context was strong enough to color the interpretation of that email. In a matter of 15 minutes the green-eyed monster turned into an admiring pussy cat. (After all, I really do think this woman is neat.)
You are the boss of context
The sun isn’t always shining. Your team doesn’t always win. Meditation doesn’t always leave you feeling centered and whole. But no matter what is going on when the green-eyed monster strikes, you are in charge of the context.
What’s cool is that you can play with seemingly random bits of context and still generate a shift. Go for a walk. Put on some music. Ring a bell.
Then there are more direct ways to interact with the context: Call a friend. Journal about what’s going on. Do The Work of Byron Katie. There are countless ways to play with context.
Play is the operative word here. When you get too serious about shifting context, you run the risk of struggling against the green-eyed monster. That just makes the monster stronger.
But put the monster in a different context, and it loses its power.
Context is constantly changing, and you can direct the ways it changes. No matter how crummy you feel, you are still the boss of context.
It get’s easier to shift contexts
Context shifting, like most things, gets easier with practice. Practice makes it easier to remember to shift. Practice makes shifts happen more rapidly. Practice makes shifts happen more deeply.
And practice can be fun.
And it’s not always easy
Context shifting is simple, but it isn’t always easy. Sometimes you get stuck in your stuff. You don’t really want to shift the darn context. That’s okay. Let it be. Let the context for being stuck be this: You’re a human being in a precious human body. You get to be you, whatever that looks like today.
That’s the big context, and it kind of rocks.
Photo by Matt Reinbold via Flickr
Under a Creative Commons License