Maddie sat quietly as her boss thought through the problem at hand. After a few moments of silence she looked Maddie in the eye.
“The most troubling thing for me,” the boss said, “is that you dropped the ball.”
Maddie took a deep breath and broke her boss’s gaze. “To be honest,” Maddie responded, “I followed the procedure we’ve always used. I didn’t expect there to be a problem.”
The boss leaned forward. “I pay you to think these things through. Come up with a plan of attack by tomorrow morning and I’ll look it over.”
Maddie did write up the plan before she left for the evening. And though her body was done with the work day and safely home, the exchange with her boss played through her head like a bad pop song on a continuous loop.
She kept hearing the harsh words of her boss. Kept replaying the scene between them. She did this for hours (while chowing on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s finest). And when the evening was over she fell into bed an exhausted mess.
Maddie had spent the evening doing what I call The Grind.
No doubt you have done The Grind too. We all fall into it if we’re not careful. Believe me when I say this is one tiring and wasteful way to spend your time.
What is The Grind?
It is the mental act of replaying a past scenario over and over, mulling over every moment of the encounter. You feel the horror/shame/anger/indignation again and again.
I did The Grind once after visiting a make-up counter in Boston. I was traveling on business and thought a makeover would freshen up my looks and psyche. The sales clerk took one look at me and exclaimed that my lips were quite thin. She would just have to work around that.
I spent the next three days thoroughly examining the terrain of my lips, thinking about what she said and feeling angry about it. She didn’t need to say such a thing, did she? What nerve. I spent too many hours wasting my time over the comment.
I wasted my time!
What did all the lip exploration and rehashing do for me? Nothing positive. If anything it made me more paranoid about my slim lips. In other words, it harmed my self-esteem (for awhile).
This is what The Grind does to us. When have you let a thought run in your brain like a hamster on a wheel? Have you ever come out of it thinking, Egads! What great insight I’ve achieved! No, you feel depleted not enlightened. The continuous negative thought does not serve you.
So here’s my challenge. Catch yourself practicing The Grind. Take one minute (a mere 60 seconds) to ponder the thought and your reaction to it. Really stop yourself. The world can wait one minute for you reflect. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself if The Grind is a productive thought. If not, let it go.
Easier said than done, right? But knowing when you’re grinding is such an important first step. You can fix only those things you are aware of.
Three Techniques to Manage The Grind:
Breathing: There’s a reason humankind has turned to breath for thousands of years. It works. Anywhere. Anytime. Start with a deep breath. Make the inhale large enough that you can feel your ribs expand. Hold the breath for two seconds when your lungs are at their fullest. Now slowly exhale through your nose in a steady stream. Once you’ve fully exhaled wait two seconds and begin again. Do three times focusing on the sensation that breathing creates in your body.
Writing: Jot down the thought you are grinding about. But in true Twitter form, keep it short. No more than twelve words. Now put the pen in your non-dominant hand and write it again. Chances are the level of concentration you’ve used to write with the ‘wrong’ hand will start to lessen The Grind. If you want to have fun, decorate the paper with doodles or stickers or, better yet, burn it. With this technique you are taking the sting and bad juju out of the bad thought.
Lean In: This is the most difficult of the three. But it will move the negativity through you the fastest. Focus on the feeling that the The Grind creates. Now feel it without the story of what happened. In Maddie’s case it meant feeling anger without running through the exchange with her boss, or how she hated her boss, or how this was another example of her career problems. She just let the feeling of anger fester within her without a running commentary from her brain. Amazingly, the anger crested and then subsided.
Note that eating raw cookie dough, playing Candy Crush Saga or watching The Real Housewives of Wherever are not on this list? Those will distract you but not help ease the emotion you feel.
We’ll talk more about The Grind because it is so insidious. Watch for it in yourself and in others you interact with. Keep asking “Does this thought serve me?” Chances are it doesn’t.
I’d love to hear about your version of The Grind. Is it hard to control? Does it ever help? Please share in the Comments section.
Now I’m going to kick some Candy Crush Saga tuckus, if you don’t mind.