Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Getting Triggered

Getting TriggeredBy George Marino CPC, CMMT October 6th, 2021

It is relatively easy to get triggered at work, and for the professional, it is very common. In fact, these are opportunities to get to know yourself better. For many, the opportunity is lost, sometimes due to the fast-paced environment of the workplace and our lack of awareness for the subtle triggers such as an irritating co-worker, constant pressures of deadlines to complete a task, and so on. We addressed this earlier in the mindfulness practice of acceptance and identification, but now we look at these triggers as an awakener to transcend the ego in the moment they arise and step beyond—beyond balancing the books.

Here are some questions I have been asked from time to time on work related stress.

Question: I find myself multi- tasking constantly, especially during busy season. How do I learn not to so much multi-tasking?

How does it feel when you are multi-tasking? “I am very overwhelmed and feel anxious. I don’t know if I am overlooking certain issues, and that makes me nervous.” Did you ever think about doing nothing for a moment? “What do you mean by doing nothing?” Multi-tasking is an illusion in most situations. Can you become aware of the space between one task and the next? Try experimenting by doing one specific task at a time, like finishing a tax return up to the point at which you have your open issue list.

Don’t look at your e-mails or texts while you do this work. Your ego won’t like this but refrain from checking e-mails and texts anyway while you are working on something else. If you are on a conference call, make it a point not to check your e-mails while on the call. Also, take short breaks throughout the day; a simple breathing exercise is an example of “doing nothing.” Then see how you feel. You will learn much more about yourself as you take a step back for short periods throughout the day. You’ll start to feel like you are mastering your emotions. You’ll be transcending the ego.

Question: I was recently passed over for promotion in my firm, and a colleague of mine was awarded the promotion. I feel disappointed, sad, and humiliated- what can I do?

It is painful to have this happen. The first step is to recognize your common humanity with others who have gone through similar situations, although not exactly as you are experiencing. Feel into this connection. Once you enter a state of sensing your common humanity, then make the present moment your ally rather than ruminating about why this might have happened. Very often, it is impersonal factors that led to your firm’s decision. As you make the present moment your friend, you’ll realize that this situation does not determine your future. Try looking at this situation as a small drop in the ocean, and you are the ocean. Be open to people who remind you that you are smart, capable, and important to them.

Question: As I look back at what drove me to success, rising to partner and bringing in new business, I realize now it was all ego. Now that I discovered the benefits of mindfulness meditation, I see my life as living moment to moment. How can I reconcile the two?

Congratulations! Discovering your status and the work you do in the world as only a temporary function rather than defining who or what you are is a breakthrough. Many people say they are not addicted to their work, but when you look closely in moments of challenge, this is not the case. Your work can fit into the “big picture” of what is important in your life instead of defining you. When we place all our energy on a single will to succeed, it can become destabilizing, compromising our health and more. What we find exhilarating at one point in life can be exhausting during other times. Mindfulness helps us discern what is important in the only moment there is—the present moment—and with that realization comes a peace that you can’t describe. Your work in the firm will be the same for the most part, but how you do your work will change; it will be based in presence. That is the reconciliation.