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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blindsided And An Amygdala Unchecked

This week I was walking down the sidewalk leaving the bank en route to my car, when a 13 or 14 year old boy racing his bike on the sidewalk T-boned me.  He must have been trying to whip around the people to exit off the curb and onto the street when I happened to walk right directly into his path.  BOOM!  In a flash I went down on all fours.  When I stood up, what I did surprised me.  I grabbed the front of that boy's sweatshirt, pulled his face up to mine and screamed, "Don't you ever *&^%^ing ride on the sidewalk again!!!  You ride your bike only on the street, do you understand?!!!! And where is your HELMET?"

HIs eyes widened in terror, he must have thought I was going to deck him and he managed to stammer "Lady..."  I let go of his sweatshirt, walked past him to my car, got in and surveyed the damage.  My hands were ripped up, my head ached but nothing broken.  Only after I had driven round the corner did I realize I had not even asked that kid if he was okay.  I came to my senses, drove back, but he was gone.

There were two things that bothered me.  The first was my response.  What in the world had me react that way?  It was pure fear that manifested in anger, my amygdala (that part of the brain that is all about fight or flight) clearly was out of control.  I wrote Dr. Ellen F Weber (@ellenfweber on twitter) to ask what I could do to get a better handle on it, she wrote back, "Glad you are OK Patti - Yikes! Glad you didn't pop him tho:-) Amygdala is tough to calm at times. To practice in the calm moments helps."


The second was the thought that I had been "blindsided."  If every encounter without exception is there for our learning, where was I not paying attention to?  


It is easy to find yourself focused on your own little world, without being aware of what is changing around you, or whose path you are about to walk into.  Where is your tunnel vision keeping you from seeing the whole scene or picture in front of you?

A couple of tips for taking a closer look at your world:

Draw a quick stick figure cartoon of your life in this moment.  Capture (without judging your skills in drawing)  in both words and images what you are doing in relation to your work, money, relationships, family, health, balance - and anything else that pops into mind.   Sketch as quickly as you can without thinking.

Now look to see what is there.  Are there any areas where you are not seeing the full picture?  Any areas that could potentially blindside you or your business?

You don't need to grab your own shirtfront, but by checking in with your own current state you can fill the gaps and keep yourself aware and prepared for the unexpected.

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