When I was in 7th grade, I did something pretty dumb. I was writing a play for my English class, and coming up with crazy names for my characters. Some classmates were having a discussion, and I overheard one of them call a girl a name. It shares the same name as a garden tool, and isn’t very nice. I immediately took her phrase “Who’s a ___?” and made it an Asian sounding character in my play. Every time I mentioned that “name” the class roared with laughter, and the teacher shook her head. I honestly didn’t know what that slang word meant.
I was really bothered by that whole incident after I was told what I had said. I was worried the teacher would say something to my parents, and that she would hold it against me. I was also worried that other students might realize I was unaware of what the word meant (even though my old-fashioned Mormon schoolteacher apparently did). It bothered me for a whole year, to the point that I couldn’t even go into the gardening section of K-Mart without getting anxious (well, that may be an exaggeration!).
Looking back on it now, it is yet one more funny story I can tell on this blog, and in the various talks I give across the country. In short, I have proper perspective on it now.
It is hard to get perspective on something stressful (or at least something that appears stressful at the time) during the stress.
However, let me share a nice technique to get some perspective instantly. It is a slightly modified technique that is often provided by Neurolinguistic Programming experts, including its co-founder Richard Bandler.
Close your eyes and imagine a timeline going from left to right in front of you. Imagine the left of the timeline is in the past, and the right of the timeline is the future, and the spot in front of you, the present. Come up with an image that represents the stressful event, and place it in the past section of the timeline. Now, visualize the timeline moving, so that you are looking from the perspective of 6 months in the future. Make that event so small and tiny that you can barely see it! Smile as you do this because you have just put the stressful event in perspective! Any time you start blowing something out of proportion, redo this timeline exercise! Remember how tiny and insignificant that event is going to seem 6 months from now. If 6 months is too soon, then take your timeline a year or even 10 years in the future!