5 Easy Steps to Common Sense

Below is the audio version of this blog post:

Have you ever been so annoyed - that you just can’t calm down? In fact, if someone tells you to “calm down,” it just fuels the fire and you go from annoyed to angry. I want to share a 60 second exercise using the five senses to clear you head and re-focus.

It’s a 60 second exercise to clear the head and re-focus.  It requires no special preparation and can be done anywhere.  The hard part is to recognize you’re unsettled and to remember there is something you can do about it.

One important clue is intensity.  Our bodies often register intensity like an early warning system: headaches, muscle tension, sweating, a pounding heart, feeling too hot or cold, even stomachaches.

Another important clue is the complaint or blame loop that starts playing in your head. “People are unfair, disrespectful, close minded, wasting your time, or just plain stupid.”  

These body and mind clues let you know that you’re in a defensive mode and not thinking straight. This five step exercise uses your five senses to restore your common sense.

What do you see?

Look ... at a photo of someone you love, out the window, up and down, at art on the wall


What do you hear?

Listen ... to the sounds outside, to your heart beating, to your own breathing, to sounds in the room


What do you smell?

Inhale ... your colleagues’ cologne, the air around you, your cup of coffee, the lotion on your hands

What do you taste?

Savor ... the mint in your mouth, the carbonation in your soda, the nuts in a muffin, the salt on a pretzel


What are you touching?

Feel ... the floor under your feet, the texture of your hair, your hands on the table, the coolness of a glass


Here is an example of how a client used this exercise to calm down and start noticing what she could do differently to change a stressful situation.  My client often felt put down in business meetings.  She felt that nobody listened when she spoke. Adding insult to injury was when colleagues expressed ideas similar to hers and their ideas would get the group talking.

In the weekly business meeting, she recognized that she was crossing her arms and feeling annoyed.  She also noticed that a mental loop of resentment was playing in her head, “nobody is listening to me, and there goes someone else getting credit for my idea” 

Because she was able to notice her body/mind clues she took a soft, deep breath, placed a mint in her mouth and completed the 60 second scan of her senses. She ended with another soft, deep breath.

She felt calmer and ready to turn her full attention back to being a member of the group. Sure enough she noticed something new - when others used certain words and phrases, ones she had considered just “jargon,” those phrases actually stimulated group discussion.

Then she remembered that the company’s CEO often used key phrases at his town meetings and that corporate ads often featured the same language.

So she tried expressing her ideas in a different way and used the phrases other influential colleagues used. The discussion on the table was about recent travel cutbacks and her contribution went like this, “Since travel expenses are being modified to enhance revenue. I would like to propose we consider the ROI of setting up two new video conference rooms to maintain our current level of client contact”

 To her delight, the group enthusiastically discussed her proposal. She was very satisfied to have a strategy that helped her get unstuck.  She also surprised to learn that she didn’t use the same language as her colleagues when she wanted to her point across and how easy that was to change.

So don’t allow being defensive to hijack your common sense.  Use this quick and effective exercise to help you discover new ways to work. And remember, as we say in my family when going out the front door, Don’t forget to use your common senses.  

If you want to try out this strategy, I am happy to offer a free 20 minute consultation. Just send me an email: patwardconsulting@gmail.com