Sometimes it helps to treat your brain like a little kid — as soon as it starts acting up, offer to play a game to calm it down.
In this case, the game is the “two-minute rule.” Here’s how it works.
Say your boss announces that he expects you to submit a project by 5 p.m. today. You know there’s no way you can do that — you’ve got other assignments on your plate and just gathering the necessary resources to start the project would take several hours.
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This is the point when you should stop and think: “If this were possible, how would I do it?”
It’s like a game of make-believe, and you can let your imagination run wild.
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The two-minute rule is the brainchild of Andrew D. Wittman, a former Marine, police officer, and federal agent; current mental toughness coach; and author of “Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You.” (The book is available on Wittman’s website, but not on Amazon.)
In adult speak, the gist of the rule is, when you’re faced with a stressful situation, spend two minutes thinking about how you’d accomplish the seemingly infeasible task ahead of you.
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“You’re not arguing that it’s not impossible,” Wittman said when we spoke by phone in October. “But your brain will actually do the work and come up with answers” — answers that might help you get that project done by 5.
In other words, it’s not about denying the fear or worry or whatever you might be feeling at the moment. “Hear the voice of resistance,” Wittman said. Then try to see the problem from a different perspective.
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The goal here is to be what Wittman calls a responder, as opposed to a reactor. When you respond, you systematically gather information about the situation like a first responder would when you call 911. When you react, you let your immediate emotions guide your behavior.
Those two minutes are the equivalent of a mental step back, giving yourself the space to process what’s going on instead of launching into an angry tirade or panic attack.
Ultimately, those two minutes of thinking could save you hours of fretting and fuming, when instead you could be buckling down and getting the project done.