Stay Composed

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Are you calm or reactive and volatile? I ask that question as no more than five minutes ago, and I got off the phone with someone who requested a simple answer to the question, “How come you’re not angrier? How come you seem so composed?” My first response (and that is an important word here) was to say, “What choice do I have?” In truth, we have several choices, and the path to composure is to make positive decisions.


Widespread Outrage

The virtue of staying calm or composed is a path we must all make. I believe our grandparents and parents were more composed in their lives than we are today. I also think that present-day society has made composure more challenging than ever. However, here is the biggest puzzle of all: our willingness or unwillingness to seek calm or serenity is in our hands and often, we make a choice to be reactive and stressed despite our desire not to be that way.

Those who know me know that I love language. I love the written and spoken word. It is therefore not surprising that I am sensitive to modern day language. To that end, one word that mystifies me is “Outrage.” Go online to any news source you favor, and you will observe “outrage” applied to most anything. Almost every week, we read that we should be outraged to politicians, food prices, healthcare, television shows, history, monuments, artificial sweeteners, and in fact, most anything. “Outrage” is a pretty powerful word. Our ancestors used outrage to describe unspeakable atrocities, not the ending to Game of Thrones! If everything outrages us, what is left to get angry about?

Then there are the news shows themselves. When I eat continental breakfast at a hotel lobby area, I see guests tuned into all of the major cable news channels while consuming their favorite cereal. They are often fuming as the news commentators (who used to be called journalists) interpret their version of the day’s stories. The fuming often leads to open disagreements. I recently was at a hotel where there is a television in the lobby breakfast area that has a sign saying that all news channels have been intentionally blocked because of arguments.

There are numerous choices on social media with platforms such as Twitter almost devoted to anger, meanness, and an overall lack of civility. These are but a handful of ways in which language makes us loose composure.


Common Causes of Stress

Added to the forces intent on separating us from our composure are all of the stressors we put in our daily lives. They are numerous, cumulative, and highly damaging. Here are but a few:

Over-booking has become a significant problem for parents and children. Psychologists have warned us about the psychological dangers of not having any downtime. Children are losing their ability to “play.” Adults are getting less and less sleep in an endless cycle of rushing to do this or that.

Stress is manifesting itself in the way we are using our digital devices. Remember when we had to contend with “just” email? Now many of us jump whenever we receive a text message or “a videotelephony” request. A growing number of adults are sleeping near to their smartphone lest they miss something at 2 a.m.

Financial obligations are now a major cause of stress, causing us to lose composure and filling us with worry and some of us with anger. While the generations before us liked to practice the concept of buying something when they could afford it, with the advent of easy credit those people who used to wait before buying something, now jump in and pay the price for months and even years after. It is not only purchases such as new refrigerators that plague us, its luxurious vacations, and expensive meals. One major cause of indebtedness among Millennials is restaurant debt charged to credit cards.

Finally, many of us are under stress because of the wrong choice in terms of friendships we have chosen. One of the fastest ways to become angry, bitter, and lose composure is to invite people into our lives who are angry and resentful. The quicker we can walk away from such people, the better.


Don’t Become Part of the Problem

Life is about how we respond to its challenges with composure and grace. In our daily lives, we can choose to react with “outrage” or to avoid it. How to prevent the hypersensitivity of the news or social media, how to not overschedule or even to jump every time our text-message sounds invade our lives. We can elect to sidestep angry, rude, or insensitive people, to live within our means and to exercise and eat properly to maintain a more even keel.

Composure is about knowing what to say when to say it, and when to stop. Conflict cannot survive without your participation. Stay composed!


For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.