The Art of Being Centered
If you ask people whether staying “centered” in life is a worthwhile goal, chances are that you hear a resounding “Yes!” Whether it’s the problem of being thrown off balance by the problems we deal with on a daily basis, or simply the desire to stay grounded no matter who or what comes our way, the idea of staying centered seems to be something we all want to achieve.
But what does “being centered” really mean, and how can it be accomplished? As a psychologist and someone who is dedicated to helping others create and maintain a meaningful, fulfilling life, I have found a question that can help us in this quest. I’m choosing to call it a “magic question” because so far, I have not found any situation to which it doesn’t apply, and therefore the potential that this question could be helpful in many areas of our lives seems very high.
The question is found in this week’s quote, and I have adapted it from a very similar thought by psychologist and author, Stephen Gilligan. It says: When deciding what to do next, we can always ask: “Does this thought, emotion, or action bring me closer to my center, or take me farther away?”
I like the first part of the quote/question because it speaks of what to do next. You see, I have found that we can’t always control our first thought or emotion. We can, however, become aware of whether this emotion, thought, or action serves us, and then decide whether to use it as a guide for what to do next.
For example, when most people start to feel stressed, frustrated, annoyed or angry, they often begin to look for data or reasons to support this feeling. They might think, “That person made me so mad” or “Traffic really stresses me out” or “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down,” etc. Unfortunately, that only validates the “righteousness” of the the thought, emotion, or action, and therefore we will tend to continue to feel stressed, frustrated, and/or annoyed for quite some time.
Given that this is rarely how we want to feel, I suggest we use an internal guidance system to determine what to do next. This guidance system is much like that of a rocket. When a rocket is launched, it immediately begins to go off course. However, the internal guidance system senses this, and corrects the trajectory. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sense when we might be “going off course” or going farther from our center, and change how we were thinking and feeling in a similar way?
If so, I suggest we begin to reinterpret signals of stress, frustration, and annoyance, not as how some person or situation is making us feel, but as good information as to whether we are “on course” or not. To determine this, we can always ask, “Does this thought, emotion, or behavior bring me closer to, or take me further away from my center?” We can then allow the answer to inform what we choose to do next.
In this way, we will ensure that we are acting by choice versus reacting by chance, and staying centered, on track, and on purpose in all we do.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill