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Check your Baggage…Part 1

February 8, 2011

Have you heard the phrase “emotional baggage” or “so-and-so’s got a lot of baggage?”  Of course you have.  We live in the era of Dr. Phil and self-help books overflowing the bargain bin down at Books-A-Million.

But EVERYONE has baggage.  Some people bring a tote or valise while some people haul around a steamer trunk, but we all carry things around with us.  And unfortunately this baggage isn’t checked at the doorstep when we walk into the office each morning.  Nope, it comes inside right along with us.


A lot of times, when we think of “emotional baggage” we think in terms of romantic or sexual relationships.  We conjure up images of bad memories, mistrust or rejections from past relationships.

But there’s baggage we’ve accumulated throughout our lives that also accompanies us each day we step into the office.  We bring childhood memories or experiences from past work settings.  It may be 20 years since high school, but the teammate who rejects our idea for a new initiative may trigger the same emotional reaction we had to the cheerleader who rejected our invitation to the prom.  So what to do?

  • Check your baggage at the door – each day.  If you need to make a transition from home-to-work, take the opportunity to do so during your commute in the morning.  Listen to music, switch your mind to positive thoughts, and make a conscious effort to decide HOW you will approach the day.  Visualize actually LEAVING a piece of baggage in your car or outside the building.
  • Examine why you may be reacting to a coworker, boss or peer in a certain way.  Does your boss conjure up images of a parent?  Is that pesky co-worker reminding you of cousin Joe who made your childhood miserable?  Learn to view these people as professional colleagues and try to eliminate comparisons to family members.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and determine where they come from.  If you’re having a particularly visceral reaction to a situation or an event at work, ask yourself
    why.  Is your perception of the situation being influenced by bad memories from the past?  Is the situation reminding you of a previous time when you experienced
    discomfort or angst?  Examining why you’re reacting in a certain way may allow you to free yourself of the heavy baggage that’s weighing you down.
  • Take stock of your personal values and periodically verify that you’re behaving and reacting in a manner that coincides with your value system.  If you operate from the standpoint of “do unto others”… well… are you?

All of our past experiences come together to define us and propel us forward as we move through life.  We’re fortunate that, as human beings, we’re blessed with the capacity to remember. But sometimes we need to forget.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2011 8:17 am

    You raise an interesting proposition: leaving baggage at the door, but also balancing your reactions while at work to that baggage. One of the things I tell our new employees is that it is virtually impossible to leave their “personal life” (my term for baggage) at the door when they come to work. So I challenge them to vent to me, a colleague, a supervisor or anyone else they trust if they are feeling stressed -> but never vent in front of patients or other customers. We can provide support for our colleagues so they can handle their baggage (at least during their shift), but expecting them to leave it all behind may be too difficult for some. Great topic for discussion!

  2. February 8, 2011 8:50 am

    I enjoy the idea of a personal perception checklist. I think it’s an awesome idea to assess each situation and its cast of characters. I find we often disrupt group progress to fulfill personal directives. By passifying certain individuals we are able to move forward,

    Thanks for Sharing! Who Dat – Dave

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