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Stop-Challenge-Choose: A Formula for Improving Work and Relationships

In their book, Play to Win!, Revised Edition: Choosing Growth Over Fear in Work and Life, Larry and Hersch Wilson offer a simple formula for changing how we respond to events around us: Stop-Challenge-Choose. Here's how to use it to reduce stress, reach a state of calm and improve your overall experience at work and in relationships.


Step 1: Stop

When something occurs (we also can call this a “triggering event”) that sends you into fits of depression, anger, or other non-productive, negative behavior, just stop. This is a full stop! Stop moving.  Stop thinking.  Stop driving. Stop doing whatever you were doing.

Breathe with this rhythm:


·     In for 7 seconds

·     Hold for 7 seconds

·     Exhale for 7 seconds


Do this three times.


That is roughly 1 minute to interrupt your body’s response to a trigger and through your breath, control your heart rate, and the chemicals flooding your brain.   Note that you are purposefully managing physiological change in your body.  (This has also been called“becoming the boss of your brain”.) THE BREATHING TECHNIQUE AND the process of moving into a calm state shifts your thinking management from the amygdala, a.k.a.the emotional brain, to thinking managed by the neocortex, the cognitive (rational) brain.


Another way of thinking about this is that you are interrupting your primal response to what your body might believe is a threat.  This response is commonly referred to as “fight or flight”, and while important when you are actually in danger, it usually doesn't help us when we need to think clearly and make a good decision in business or your personal life.


Once you are at calm, (if you aren’t feeling calm yet, do the breathing exercise again) take notice of what is going on---most importantly, the facts of the situation.  Our goal is to eliminate all your subjective responses and fear-based assumptions to get crystal clear on reality.


For example, a customer walks into your restaurant and complains about the service, threatening to write a bad review on the Yelp! App and tell everyone in the local community that he was treated poorly.  Before reacting with anger, fear, withdrawal, or any other non-productive emotion, stop (breathe: 7,7,7 x 3) and get clear on the facts of the situation.  The customer is complaining.  That's all you know at this point.


Step 2: Challenge