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CAREERS / ADVERSITY AND CONFLICT

Exercise in Frustration

A test can help you get to the CORE of how you deal with your problems. And following a consultant's advice may LEAD you past your worries.

May 18, 1998|MARTHA GROVES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Now, wait a second, I tell Stoltz, feeling a mite defensive. I've weathered my share of adversity--serious illness, romantic breakups, the financial burdens of a single mother, allergies. Hey, I even survived a kitchen remodel and lived to tell about it.

Surviving is not the real point, said Stoltz, who took a moment to reassure me that I was clearly competent and had even earned a level of prestige. "But what I would probably say is, when adversity stacks up, it takes more of a toll than it needs to." Think of the life you waste, he chided me, worrying and ruminating over things that almost certainly will not turn out as horribly as feared.

OK, he's got me there. So, I ask, how can I improve on this so-so AQ?

*

Easy, he says. Follow his LEAD. I should:

* Listen to my own response to adversity. Is it a high or a low AQ response?

* Explore the origin of the adversity and my ownership of the result. What portion of the origin was my fault? What could I have done better? What aspects of the result should I own?

* Analyze the evidence. What evidence is there that I have no control? What evidence is there that the adversity has to reach into other areas of my life? What evidence is there that the adversity must last a long time?

* Do something. What additional information do I need? What could I do to gain even a little control over this situation? What could I do to limit the reach of this adversity? What could I do to limit how long the adversity endures in its current state?

By following this list, Stoltz said, any person can move from utter despair to creating a list of actions, some of which can be taken immediately.

And next time I'm inclined to catastrophize? For that, Stoltz said, I need a "neurological interrupt." In other words, I need to intentionally distract myself and get away from my damaging thought pattern.

His suggestions: Pick up a pencil and focus on it intently, looking for scratches in the wood or a smudge on the eraser.

Or, better yet, slam your hand onto your desktop while yelling "Stop!"

That last one is best tried at home, perhaps when you're opening an audit notice from the Internal Revenue Service. Now, that's adversity.

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