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Finding Unique Outcomes to Manage Emotions


When we are overwhelmed by a problem or situation, we often attach certain narratives or stories to what is happening. For example, a stressful encounter with a colleague might cause you to start thinking that there is something wrong with you (or them). You might enlarge the problem by thinking about other times in your life where you have been similarly triggered or have had similar experiences with others.

Often when we are feeling any kind of stress or pain, our minds are also developing stories about why this pain exists and drawing conclusions about the past or the future. One way to minimize the stress or pain around any problem or situation, is to learn to identify these stories, and also to consider alternative experiences or unique outcomes. Here is a short exercise to help you learn how to identify unique outcomes to shift your narrative and gain a more empowering perspective on any situation or problem you might be facing.


Assess the situation

Think about something that is bothering you right now. It could be something about yourself, something about someone else, about your job, or a conflict in a relationship. Now, consider what story you are telling yourself about that thing. For example, if it’s your spouse- they NEVER do this or that, maybe you feel that you aren’t properly never recognized for your efforts or work, or maybe your apartment NEVER feels clean. Or maybe it’s a certain feeling that you have about your life, “I never have success.” Simply identify the situation or struggle.


Identify an alternative example

Now, instead of considering all the reasons that your description is true, think of a single time that it was not the case. Think of a time when your spouse did rise to the occasion, when you did get praise at work, or a time when you felt organized or successful. You should actively look for alternative narratives to the one you are describing to yourself.


Explore a different truth

This exercise is not meant to diminish your problem or your reality, but to consider the fact that your mind is biased. You will continue to believe what you already think is true, and your mind will work to support that with evidence. If you can consciously shift your beliefs and look for alternative outcomes, you can see that maybe things are not as bleak as they seemed.

Apply a unique outcome for a better understanding and solution.

Once you start to identify this opposing example, consider finding others to see if there are other patterns you haven’t seen before. Can you see other perspectives about yourself, others, or your situation?

If this exercise feels stressful or painful, it may even be because your original narrative is serving a specific purpose for you. In what ways are you benefitting from this story? Does a certain belief give you a reason not to act, or give you more room for complacency? Where does fear play a part in this? Finding unique outcomes in any situation is a helpful way to shift our perspective, open our minds, and consider alternative points of view that we may be missing. After completing this exercise you can also explore your findings with your coach or another trusted person.


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