It’s #WednesdayWisdom time!
This week I’m going to share a post from Brian Knight and relate it to what WE DO with email and text. First, here’s the story called “The Monk Who Refused to Open his Letters”
There’s a story about a monk training himself to be more aware of his impulses and less directed by them. It was tricky for him, as it is for all of us. He devised a simple strategy for prioritizing and elevating his patience when he felt an impulse.
Whenever he received a letter or correspondence from a friend or fellow monk, he set it aside without opening it. He wanted to open it and read the message but realized this, too, was an impulse. So he set the letter aside and continued his daily tasks and work.
The standard he set for himself was that he would only open a letter once he no longer felt a desire to open it. Days would pass, weeks sometimes before he opened some letters. He forced himself into patience until the impulse subsided. He waited to make a conscious and intentional decision to act until he was free from the grip of emotional desire.
It wasn’t about the letters. It was about training his mind and strengthening the discipline of his patience to feel an urge without giving in to it.
I have learned to use this technique with my emails and text messages. Though I am not trying to control my impulses, I am trying to control my emotional & mental state.
Last weekend, we were on a mini-vacation with my family. On Sunday afternoon a Realtor who I don’t know very well and haven’t worked with very often texted me and asked if I had time to talk. I’ll share my response because this was my first real implementation of what I have been practicing:
“Currently on vacation with my family for the weekend. We drive back tomorrow. Can it wait until I’m back in town or is it urgent that we speak today?”
You guessed right that his response was “I would say it’s urgent, sorry to interrupt you.”
Here’s where I put in to play what I’ve been practicing: “Can I please ask what the situation is please? It’s less about me taking the time to speak with you and more about my concern for my mental state while on vacation with my family. While I can take the time, I don’t want our conversation to have an impact on how I feel the rest of the trip with my family.”
I’ll spare you the rest of the story – because that’s not the point. Instead of asking my self, “CAN I?”(yes, I can, it would have been a short conversation, I’m sure) I’m now pausing and asking myself “SHOULD I?” (that short conversation could have wrecked the rest of my day). Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
I’ll finish up by admitting the numerous times I’ve read a text or email that upset me….while at home with my family….and had my emotional & mental state impacted….and reflected that emotion on my family. Either I’m upset, frustrated, agitated, or actually mad.
The email / text did that to me. I let it happen!
NO MORE. If I get the slightest jump in my heart rate, if I get the slightest hint that this may be an email or text that could impact my core emotional state – I won’t read it if I’m not in the right place.
It helps to picture the monk staring at the sealed letter, feeling the desire, but turning his attention away from the letter and back to his focus and purpose before the letter arrived. The stronger the emotional pull or reaction to an email or text, the more careful I am to not read it until I’m mentally ready (or away from my family).