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Choose to Disregard

18 February 2014

Allison read In Praise of Disregard in The Opinion Pages of The New York Times by Christy Wampole and was grateful for a persuasive piece about why and how we should make thoughtful choices about how we feel and act (rather than react).

Tags: allison read, communication, leadership, mindfulness, thoughtful candor

Christy Wampole started her 16 February column with a description of her reactions to stories about elections or other politically-charged issues. Right away her honesty about a tendency to fixate on upsetting news and let the stories hijack her emotions and possibly even ruin her day captured my attention. (I’m always pulled in by self-awareness and courageous candor.)

You may not have as strong a reaction to political issues, but don’t let that stop you from reading this short piece since I’m guessing you have strong reactions to something in your life. You know… those things large and small that make you want to vent to a friend, roll your eyes, smirk, avoid a difficult conversation or maybe feel sad and as though the Universe just isn’t pulling for you.

I often tell clients that an informed decision to let go of something, to do nothing or say nothing can be as powerful a leadership moment as any other more vocal assertive action. Now I’ll be adding Wampole’s prescription for conscientious disregard. “What I propose involves three steps: (1) a taking into account all positions, a kind of survey of possible ways to look at things, even those ways we find irritating; (2) identifying those ideas that degrade us and sap our energies; and (3) denying these ideas an existence in our personal spheres.”

Wampole gives appropriate deference to the well-known Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” But she encourages readers to take her additional more active steps, “…as a path to simmering down collectively.” Sometimes the discourse in your head about how your life is unfolding can get as heated and mean as any debate or venting sessions with others. When individuals and groups are able to take issues seriously, but also stay calm and constructive, better things can happen.

Choosing how I feel and what I let influence me before I react takes a lot of willpower. I often have to use more than a few of my mindfulness tools to remind myself that I have choices. I’m glad to add Wampole’s advice to my toolbox.


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