Most people are less able to access their wisdom than they know. And that’s because they are in survival mode more than they know. We experience various degrees of survival whenever we are triggered, reactive and experiencing our critter state, that part of our mind that is retrieving fearful memories from the past. At those times, our only objective becomes to move to safer ground and quickly! Survival states prevent us from understanding the present-moment context of what is occurring and block us from making wise or inspired decisions. Decisions made from, and in fear, perpetuate fearful effects.

I recently experienced this myself. I had a conference call scheduled with several key prospects. A few minutes after the call was due to start, I realized my assumption they were calling me was incorrect. I immediately went into a panic and felt compelled to take action immediately and fix this NOW! As I was emailing and calling the administrative assistant, and then trying desperately to get a human being on the line, I didn’t register I was not thinking clearly. As I kept rushing to find a solution, I couldn’t remember simple things like the assistant’s first name, the date the plans were made, what the original email said and in fact, didn’t think of checking my email at all. Instead of getting to resolution, I put myself into a state where I was slower in solving the problem. My brain had been hijacked into fight-or-flight, impeding my ability to make conscious, rational choices.

This is not uncommon. Even though this is a somewhat harmless example, what’s important is recognizing how often we are operating from survival and don’t know it. When we are not in an empowered, fully present state of mind, we don’t see our options clearly, and we become defensive, anxious, resentful, rebellious, and are unable to be fully accountable. We perpetuate harm to others and ourselves and don’t know we are causing it! We are in our blind spot. Survival states are often so subtle and pervasive we don’t see how much of our life we are not at choice. We overeat, over-imbibe, over-work or otherwise over-react, or become paralyzed with fear.

To be in survival is to be out of our mind! That’s because we are in our primitive brain, our past, and don’t have access to here-and-now wisdom, clarity, nor can we reflect on and adopt new, relevant ideas and actions. Until we shift back into the present, our actions are counter-productive. To counteract this, I practice heightened awareness in small matters, which helps me practice it in larger matters and I recommend the same to you.

This means I notice more quickly when I am tensing, breathing rapidly and shallowly, and that I am in reaction rather than able-to-respond (responsibility). Next, I practice curiosity and compassion by noticing what I am thinking, feeling, interpreting and doing. I observe what is happening within me. I literally say, “oh hi!” and, “come on in” to the parade of fearful thoughts, judgments, images and predictions of disaster that surface and flood past. Because I commit to listen with unconditional acceptance, understanding, self-forgiveness and gratitude, I release each experience in seconds and enter the present moment again quickly. By noticing, accepting and using compassion, I regain equilibrium and I am able to make better choices. You can do the same.

So, are you reacting instead of responding when wisdom would be more helpful? Slow down, get curious with compassion and regain access to your wisdom. It’s the best thing you can do for your business!

Business owners, community leaders, educators and parents hire Judy Ryan and Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary environment at work, school or home. Judy Ryan’s mission is to help people create lives and jobs they love. She can be reached at 314-239-4727 or by email (judy@lifeworksystems.com).As published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, June 2015