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Overwhelmed? Try this.

Posted in the following categories: Life Lessons, Problem Solving

As I write this, I’m on a flight to Las Vegas to give a keynote at a Salesforce/Tableau conference with 8,000 attendees.

It’s one of 6 events I’m doing in less than 7 days.

In moments like this, it’s easy to get frazzled and lose myself in overwhelm.

There’s a practice I follow to ground myself that I’m going to share with you. It comes from an unlikely place: bullfighting. (For our purposes, I’m going to set aside the cruelty of the “sport” and instead focus on the idea).

It’s called querencia.

During a bullfight, it’s believed that the bull is most dangerous—not when it’s enraged—but when it’s calm. When the bull is running around in a frenzy, the matador is in power. But when the bull can find his querencia—his area of calm and safety—he can tap into his full strength.

Humans work the same way.

Most of us spend our days running around like a frantic bull—moving from one email to the next, one meeting to the next, one notification to the next. We move fast, but with no real direction.

When you’re in that frantic mode, you’re vulnerable.

As a self-constructed pandemonium rages in your arena—as you’re fighting matadors and reacting to perceived crises—you won’t have the space for good thinking. And without good thinking, you can’t make good decisions, uncover your best insights, or figure out how to escape the arena.

Underneath all that frenzy is a powerful, knowing self that’s quietly observing it all.

If you can get in touch with that self, you’ll be far more powerful.

How do you find your querencia? Here’s what that practice looks like for me. It takes about 60 seconds. No cross-legged sitting or meditation chairs required.

First, I step away from the chaos, even if it’s just to another corner of the room. I close my eyes, take several deep breaths, and then I ask myself: “What is MY intention for the next action? How do I want to show up?”

Right before I give a keynote, I might say, “I’m going to bring the audience alive with engaging stories and practical insights. I’m going to help them remember what they’ve forgotten. I’m going to delight myself—and delight them in the process. By the time I step off the stage, the room will be buzzing with energy.”

Right before I answer emails, I might say, “I’m going to make clear and quick decisions without overthinking each response. I’m not going to let emails fester in my inbox. I’m going to find a way to insert fun into the process.”

Right before I fall asleep, I might say, “I’m going to give my body the rest it needs. I’m going to fall into a deep sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and energized.”

Right before I go into a meeting, I might say, “I’m going to be fully present. I’m going to lean in and become curious about what others are saying. I’m going to share my truth, even if that makes others uncomfortable.”

Notice how, in each instance, I center on MY intention, not what other people might expect from me.

The goal is to take a minute to center myself, and to be deliberate about what I’m going to do next—so that I’m no longer at the mercy of the matador.

This shift from reaction to action connects you to your essence, your querencia, your source of strength.

And in this place, you don’t just survive the chaos.

You master it.

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