We all experience plenty of negative situations and peo- ple. The key is to be prepared to consciously respond to these negative inputs. One way to help keep your emo- tions in balance regardless of the circumstances is to use the simple 5 × 5 Rule: If it won’t matter in five years don’t spend more than five minutes being upset by it.

Despite our intentions, we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of a subconscious negative reaction. If you find yourself having a negative reaction, say “STOP!” out loud, and replace it with a positive response. Saying “STOP!” out loud is important so that you can actually hear your- self controlling your own emotions and responses. Let’s see how it works. Here is a recent scenario ((Trust me, I have had plenty of other stories that would not serve as positive examples!)

I was running late for a 5:55 p.m. flight to give a speech. I parked my car in the expensive infield parking lot to save time. I bolted through the parking lot and sprinted into the terminal. Then, I came to a complete halt at the security check point. I finally got through security with only 10 minutes to departure time. I sped up to a slow sprint as I weaved my way through people and courtesy carts. I passed my favorite frozen yogurt stand (oh, the price of running late!) and burst up to the gate to be greeted by a sign reading, “Flight 619 to Vail departs 8:55 p.m.” Delayed three hours?!

I felt my blood pressure rising and a desire to react to the nearest gate agent. Fortunately, I caught myself and literally said, “STOP!” (Okay, it was not quite that loud, but certainly audible enough to turn a few curious heads.) But, that’s all I needed to prevent an unproductive reaction. Instead, I chose to respond. I decided I would spend the time catching up on the day’s news, reading a chapter of a book I had brought along, and even writing a little of a book I just released. Then, I would make a few phones calls to reconnect with some friends and check in with my kids. I could feel my blood pressure dropping.

As I found a seat and settled in, I saw in my periphery a well-dressed man doing the same high-speed approach to the gate. He threw his backpack on the counter and said, “Did the plane leave yet?” The agent pointed to the sign behind her and said, “No, I am sorry, sir. It has been delayed.” He reacted by barking out, “I am a Platinum level member in your frequent flier program! Let me talk to your supervisor!” He proceeded to berate the supervisor, make ridiculous demands, make calls on his cell phone, and treated the people on the other end of the calls rudely.

His tantrum went on and on. I lost interest once he started repeating his routine. Well, guess what time the plane left? Right, 8:55 p.m., still three hours late. His reaction did nothing to improve the end result, but it certainly damaged some relationships.

The facts of both our situations were the same, but this man boarded the plane still fuming. I’m glad that I did not have to sit next to him! Not only was he late, but he had also spent three hours unproductively. I
had a bounce in my step because

I chose to do some writing, read a bit, and catch up with people who were important to me. The bottom line was that I chose to manage my response and was getting the best of myself, while this gentle- man was letting the situation get the best of him.

Knowing and mastering your emotions empowers and equips you to be a more confident person, a more empathetic friend person, a more relatable leader, and of course, a more inspiring coach.

If you would like to learn more about how to build a positive mindset, check out my latest book.


  • Lee J. Colan, Ph.D.

    Executive Advisor and Leadership Consultant

    Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is a rare combination of a highly-trained business consultant and coach to leading organizations, prolific author and engaging presenter of ideas. Lee has authored 15 popular books that have been translated into 10 languages, including the bestselling Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees. He has also created over 100 practical models and products that equip and inspire leaders at every level. Learn more and access free tools at theLgroup.com.