Behavior Choices Growth Mindset Values

Upset to Setup

Upset to Setup is about exploring the way we think and how we can transform non-productive behavior into productive behavior.

All of us are dealing with upsets in our lives.

Moments when our values, beliefs, norms, or safety are in danger. These can be real threats that might cause any harm or perceived threats that won’t physically harm us. Unfortunately, the amygdala, part of our brain, can not distinguish between real and perceived threats.

The result is a fight, flight or freeze response.

Just think of that nasty, unfair, or incorrect email you receive in the email from a coworker. You start typing your equally poor response and then hit send.

When you reread the email the following day, you think to yourself:

“What was I thinking?”

This is why you should never respond to emails in the evening. Especially not those emails that upset you.

The part of your brain that creates reason is called the neocortex. It’s that part of the brain that helps you to think through your response after an initial trigger.

Unfortunately, the amygdala responds immediately, and the neocortex needs a little time.

Lousy design by our creators.

This is why counting to 10 or taking a few deep breaths often helps and offers a different perspective. 

In the case of the email, leave the email alone for the night and then reread it in the morning. Chances are significant that you will correct the email or delete it altogether.

“What was I thinking?”

Or better said: “How was I thinking?”

Fight, flight, or freeze behavior won’t help you. There’s almost always a losing person at the end. It may be you (flight, freeze) or another person when you decide to fight.

Behaviors that are unproductive when triggered into an upset are also called below-the-line behaviors. Below the line, because almost always someone loses.

The challenge is to move below-the-line behaviors into above-the-line behaviors. 
To move from fight, flight, or freeze to flow.

To move from upset to setup.

The most challenging and easiest step to move from upset to setup is to pause.

It’s hard because we’re often so used to certain routines in our brains that we’re unaware of what’s happening and act on automatic pilot. I have my fair share of examples.

It’s easy because the act without context is not that challenging. You stop.

You breathe instead of responding.

You listen rather than talk.

You don’t hit send.

You push yourself to take a moment to reflect on what you’re about to do. The neocortex is then your biggest friend.

To do this effectively, it’s good to write down your triggers and see when your amygdala gets triggered. 

Once you know your triggers or upsets, you identify the appropriate response.

Write down the behaviors you don’t want to engage in. Then write down the behaviors you do want to engage in.

Move from below to above the line by building in a good pause. That’s how it gets done.

Your turn: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Flow.

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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