I recently had a stressful experience, the outcome of which any normal human being with a bit of compassion would feel sorry for one of the parties. When the event was over, I checked myself and realized that I didn’t feel all that bad. In fact, I felt GOOD!

At first I thought that maybe I was just tougher than I thought and needed to work on softening myself up a bit. How could I be this cold?! I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I asked myself a different question: “Why do I feel so good right now?”

The real answer surprised me: “I’m relieved.” My primary feelings were stemming from the absence of stress, rather than the actual outcome and its impact. I’m sure you have felt it before: the heavy stress of what is yet to come – like an exam or interview – and then the incredible sense of elated relief when it’s over? While you might feel good in the moment, the reality of the situation may have been completely different.

What I learned from this experience is this: Always evaluate a stressful experience when it’s over, but do so objectively. Don’t rush to assume that your boss loved your presentation or that your spouse is over the issue you just fought about, just because the heat of the moment is over and the stress of the event has turned to relief. When you jump to conclusions because of how you feel, you might be setting yourself up to fail.

After each emotional event, ask yourself questions like these:

  1. What should have happened?
  2. What actually did happen?
  3. All things considered, how SHOULD I feel right now?
  4. How DO I feel right now?
  5. If there’s a difference, why do I feel this way?

As wonderful as relief can be, don’t let its temporary pleasure prevent you from learning from your mistakes, identifying any remaining problems or acting in a way that’s contrary to your nature.

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