Improve Your Personal Leadership and Wellbeing


Improve Your Personal Leadership and Wellbeing

By Patti M. Thorn, Ph.D., PCC

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So what happens when you come face to face with a seemingly intolerable situation—where being easygoing and flexible doesn’t feel like the right thing to do? When your personal values feel “stepped on” by someone significant in your life, all your emotions are ready to take a stand … to tell the other person how this is impacting you.

But is that the best way to handle it?  What should you do? And how do you know in the heat of the moment which is the right road to take?

Responding rather than reacting is more doable if you have a rehearsed plan. Here are five steps that allow you to maintain composure in a tense situation:

  1. Know your goal
  2. Breathe to dissipate the emotion for now
  3. Engage your curiosity
  4. Identify opportunities
  5. Reflect on, learn from, and honor the value

First, think about what you ultimately want to accomplish. What is your goal?  Try to stay focused on it.

Next, you need to minimize your stress so you can maintain your full cognitive capacity and sense of wellbeing. High stress steals your working memory so cognition becomes slow and cumbersome. Just breathe as you begin to feel the physiological symptoms of your emotional surge (rushing mind, increased breathing, and elevated heart rate).  It’s helpful to impose a regular rhythm on your breath (4-7-8 breathing[1]: inhale four counts, hold for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts. Repeat this process four times to signal fusion of your emotions and cognition for optimal performance.  Let the emotional surge dissipate.

Next, engage your curiosity. Ask yourself a mind-switch question:  “What is right about this situation?” As human beings, we tend to focus on the negative and begin a circular rant that is ego-protecting and fear-based: “This is wrong and unfair!”

Asking what is right about the situation helps you to determine the authentic opportunities to achieve your goal that might be present in the situation. Keep asking this question until you have identified at least two opportunities.

Later, reflect to determine what triggered your strong emotion. Identify your personal value that was stepped on.  Remind yourself that, in the moment, you chose not to react so you could be intentional about forming a plan to honor this value in the future. Give yourself some time to do just that.

Fusion of emotional and cognitive intelligence is not easy, but it does come with practice.  By committing to practice, you are committing to your own personal leadership and wellbeing.


[1]  Video demonstrating 4-7-8 breathing.

 About the Author

Patti ThornDr. Patti Thorn is the founder of Living In Vision, LLC.  She is located in Phoenix, Arizona and works as a Physician Coach nationwide and as an Education Specialist within an academic medical center (St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center). She is an Assistant Professor at Creighton University and the University of Arizona Schools of Medicine.  Working within academic medicine on a daily basis enables Dr. Thorn to be abreast of current challenges and changes in healthcare.  Contact her at