by Susan Dunn

At EQ Central, we believe in solution-oriented problem-solving, not emotion-oriented problem-solving. Actually that’s one of the major differences, I think, between coaching and therapy.

Client: My house is burning down!
Therapist: Oh, you must feel scared.
Coach: Well don’t just stand there, call the fire department.

When I was in my twenties and the crisis-du-jour at that stage of life was a backed up toilet, a freezer gone bad, or a fallen soufflé, I went into denial when my mother-in-law said, “Things come in threes. That way you get them over with.”

It’s often been true, except when they came in 4s and 5s. Put it this way, “there are times … that try men’s souls.”

How do we get through them?


  • Watching “Rocky,” or “Chariots of Fire”

  • Quotations: “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you until it seems that you cannot hold on for a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” - Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  • Inspirational websites. Be proactive and do your own.

  • Music! Read about Beethoven’s life — going deaf, when music was his life — how he took a board and placed it between his collarbone and the piano strings so he could feel the vibrations. And then listen to his “Eroica.”

  • I go talk with someone. Quite often I hear something worse than what’s going on in my life. There’s truth to – “If all of our problems were strung line-to-line, You would take yours, and I would take mine.” Is it so bad, I think, that my house won’t sell, when Phyllis has just found out her niece has Tay-Sachs?

  • I find a listener — a coach, a therapist, a healer, or an animal companion. The reason we love dogs, someone said, is because they never ask us what’s wrong.

  • I schedule massages; those, and a therapist will bolster your immune system which has just taken a hit. “Emotions” are all over our bodies.

  • I vision getting back up again, 9 times, now 10. It doesn’t matter how many times you go down, as long as you get back up one more time than you get knocked down.

  • Study Resilience, the *EQ competency that’s the ultimate stress-buster. Read “Resilience,” on my website.

  • I put a pencil crosswise in my mouth and make like a smile, and enjoy the physiological benefits.

  • Sometimes, unless it’s a real tragedy, I get excited. “Watch out for emergencies,” said Fritz Reiner. “They are your big chance.”

  • This is so old and so good – the Chinese symbol for crisis is on my office wall – crisis = danger + opportunity. Look here: .

  • I know that I’ll grow into an understanding of why and what. I always have. We must live forward and understand backward. If it’s too big to wrap my mind around, I don’t.

  • I practice the EQ competency of being adamantly and relentlessly self-forgiving. I agree with Pauline Kael: “A mistake in judgment is seldom fatal, but too much anxiety about judgment is.”

  • I “let go and let God.”

  • I keep my knees bent, an analogy from water skiing. If you let fear overtake you and get brittle, you’ll get creamed. Be like a 4 year old learning to ski. Go with it.

  • I affirm that I am not hopeless and helpless. If it comes down to only this, and once or twice it has, I remember Victor Frankl’s words: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances — to choose one’s own way.”

  • I use the better defense mechanisms [smile]. I rationalize (this hot poker in my eye really isn’t so bad) instead of getting paranoid, or getting drunk.

  • I self-soothe.

  • I get in touch with my body. As coach Suzanne Brown says, this puts the bOuNCe back in the Brainiac … or the Sad One. I dance, or hike, or swim.

  • I have faith that everything always works out for the best.

  • I think of what I’ve actually known through experience — i.e., every single person I know who’s been fired (and took it hard) has gotten a much better job and been a lot happier.

  • I understand, through experience, that “this too shall pass.”

  • History – Churchill and his “Never give up,” and he said he chose to be optimistic because he couldn’t live any other way, and that success was tripping from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

  • I call the friend who will say “Poor Baby,” or I call the one who will give me a kick in the butt, whichever I’m in the mood for. That’s why it’s nice to have lots of friends.

  • I call in the favor with my ‘ultimate friend’ – this time you listen to me talk/cry/whine/scream/swear and say nothing. My turn.

  • I do something that makes me sweat.

  • I find a child and let it nurture me.

  • I take action when I can to remedy it.

  • And, like the 12-steppers, I pray for the wisdom to understand what I can fix, and what I can’t, and to be at peace with it.

  • I ask for help, and accept someone’s approximation of what’s needed.

And I expect to be blessed. I remind myself of the many times I’ve walked out into the garden, or been sitting at an outdoor graduation all unawares, and a butterfly has come and lighted on my shoulder.

Or yesterday, when I walked out to water the garden and somehow made myself a rainbow.

Life is like that!

Susan Dunn, M.A., is an executive coach, speaker, writer, and author of a series of ebooks on emotional intelligence. She is dedicated to bringing EQ into the workplace with seminars and workshops, individual coaching, and adjunctive distance learning courses. Visit her on the web at and for a free ezine about EQ in the workplace. Please put "EQ" in the subject line.

Many more articles on Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 - 2004 by Susan Dunn. All rights reserved.

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