WHENEVER YOU FEEL anxious, nervous, upset,
tense, worried, etc., ask yourself this question: "What
method could I use here?"
At first you may need to browse through
this web site looking at the different methods. After you're
more familiar with them you'll be able to do it in your head.
But by making a regular practice of applying these principles, you'll eventually become
familiar with a range of methods and this tool will become your
Yesterday I was walking into the post office
to do some errands. I'd been feeling kind of anxious, and as
I walked up I noticed I felt self-conscious, more than usually,
probably because of the extra stress hormones floating around
in my system.
I asked myself, "What tool could I
use right now?" It only took me a couple seconds to think
of one. I thought, "I could zazen
people." I started doing it. Immediately I went from trying
to get away to reaching toward. It changed my state, helped me
relax, and allowed me a chance to practice a good principle.
We have different tools for different circumstances.
Practice one method today at work. Practice a different one when
you're at home. Think about a result you want or a change you
want to make and then rummage around in your toolbox until you
find a tool that will do the job. If it doesn't work, try another
The all-purpose, first choice tool I use
is to relax tense muscles. Walking into a tense situation, I
scan my body and relax. If I am worrying about something, I relax
tense muscles. If I feel just generally agitated, I relax muscles.
It's my first thought, and it always helps. It's a small thing,
it only helps a little, but a little often helps a lot. Remember
this please: When it comes to lowering stress or anxiety, every
little bit counts.
It only does a little, but it also takes
very little time and effort. If all you can do at the moment
is take a deep breath, and it will only help a little, do it.
Don't hold out for a cure-all. There may not be one. But if you
can relax a little, that may be enough to make a difference.
These methods will help keep your nervous system calmer and more
relaxed. And they'll enhance the effectiveness of any other method
you choose to use.
I have a set of custom-made military dog
tags with principles imprinted on them one principle per
tag. When I'm getting ready to do something, I choose the clothes
I'm going to wear and I choose the principle I'm going to apply.
It sounds kind of odd, but it's very practical. It is really
far more important to take time to choose the content of your
mind than the covering of your body.
This metamethod is itself a very practical
method to reduce anxiety. Using an effective tool even
deciding to use an effective tool can reduce stress
Ask yourself, "What method could I
use here?" This is an excellent question. You actually know
quite a bit of useful information. You've learned a lot in your
life, and you've read and heard a lot of good advice during your
lifetime, but if you're like most of us, you don't apply nearly
as much as you know.
We're running on habits for the most part:
Habits of speech, habits of action, habits of thought. It takes
something out of the ordinary to wake us out of our habit-sleep
and do something fresh. This question is just the thing.
Another variation on this method is asking
yourself the question, "What is a good rule to follow right
now?" This question makes you stop and think. What are you
doing or about to do? Is there some insight or advice you know
of that, if you had it in mind right now, would make whatever
you're doing go better? Think of a good answer to that question
and then apply that answer as you go forward. State it to yourself
as a rule, and keep the rule in mind as you take action.
Many of the rules that will come to you
are the ones you've used before. There are three different kinds
of things you can remember and use:
1. rules or principles
When you ask, "What's a good rule
to follow right now," you're asking about what to do. The
answer to the question will not be a fact from category #3, and
it can't be another question. You're looking for a rule
an action-oriented rule or principle you can apply.
It obviously doesn't have to be a rule
from this web site, or anything you've ever heard. Good rules
will pop into your head if they're appropriate. This is one of
the most useful questions you can ask. What's a good rule
to follow right now?
It's one of the most useful because you
can use it in so many places. The truth is you know a lot. If
you were told to write a book of truths about life, you could,
and it would probably be good. You've learned a lot during your
lifetime. Haven't you ever thought, "I wish I could give
myself as good advice as I give to other people?"
Well, here is one way to bring your accumulated
wisdom out where you can use it. This is a way to call up your
wisdom in the heat of the battle, in the midst of the fray, in
the helter-skelter of an active moment.
Recall times when you felt tension, uneasiness,
anger, when it struck you suddenly intensely or
mildly, but suddenly. That's a good place to ask this question.
Asking the question can keep you from reacting automatically.
It makes you think about the situation in a way that you can
make a good response, the kind of response you'll be glad
you made, instead of just an old habit or simply a blind, biological
Let those moments of sudden upset or negative
feeling be your reminder to ask this question of yourself. Answer
it to the best of your ability and put that answer into action.
"What method could I use
or "What's a good rule
to follow right now?"
Read more: Toolbox
Read more: Contradictions
In The Work