Exhausted. Over it. Sooooo glad for a break. Ready to flop into the couch and zone out. All you want is a little peace and quiet.  

Welcome to Friday evening thoughts for many people, especially business owners or managers in businesses and big organisations.

A typical week for these people – and maybe you – is a series of events that rush on by until the world gives you permission to stop, finally, on a day off.

If you’re lucky enough to get a weekend away from the office, it’s not uncommon, come Sunday afternoon or evening, to get an all-too-familiar tingling in the pit of your gut… hello familiar anxiety.

You know what’s coming in the week ahead… and it’s more of the manic same.

In talking to many people these days, it seems more and more that once you get past your carefree teens or early 20s, life can speed up significantly.

And when this happens, you can get so caught on a treadmill of doing that your life feels like a never-ending autopilot of activity.

Let’s have a look at a simple but powerful way you can change this pattern.

And no, this is not about “love and light” or “positive affirmations” or any of that stuff. Try it if you like, but chances are, if you’re already run ragged, thinking positive can feel very empty… next week you have all those challenges to face regardless.

What can be done then?

First, stop fighting the strawman.

Say what?

By definition a “straw man” is a “weak or imaginary opposition”. Like the name suggests, a straw man is almost non-existent, has nothing of substance.   

Yet it seems he is alive and well in most of us.

And we expend a good deal of energy fighting him in our heads.

So not only can we be burdened by the cares of the world… our busy work… family… bills… trying to have a social life…

But we compound our burdens fighting a nonexistent foe.

In a ground-breaking personal development book first published in 1960 called Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr Maxwell Maltz exposes this common human mental trait. He says we spend so much energy scaring ourselves to death with our own mental pictures.

He makes the point that the outside world is challenging enough without us adding to it in our minds:

“Not satisfied with over-responding to actual minor stimuli in the actual environment, many of us create straw men in our imaginations, and emotionally respond to our own mental pictures… this or that may happen, what if such and such happens… when we worry we form adverse mental pictures of what may happen… your nervous system cannot tell the difference between real experience and one that is vividly imagined.” p. 220

If you’ve ever left an argument or disagreement with someone at work, a customer, a family member, a friend, a stranger and so on and thought…

“If only I’d said…”

“What I really should have said was…”

“When this happens again, I’ll…”

 This can happen in the minutes, hours, days, weeks and even years after an event.

You can even firmly believe you’ve dealt with it and “let it go” when out of nowhere, usually in a quiet moment you’ll think of the long ago incident and what you “should” have done or said.

When you do this, you fight the straw man in your mind.

You scare yourself with mental pictures of your “failure” and expend energy “protecting” yourself against a repeat.

Sound familiar?

When made aware of the “straw man” concept one recent webinar participant quipped…

“Not only do I replay the scene over and over, but I also kill the bloody straw man and then go through the whole postmortem, ouch!”

How much mental and emotional energy do we waste in pointless and un-real thoughts, fights and arguments that change NOTHING in our lives? Except maybe wearing us down.

Is it any wonder you are tired… from the physical demands of your week combined with the battles against the straw men in your mind?

Yes, fighting the straw man leaves you feeling blah.

What can be done you ask? Well, change of any kind involves three phases:

#1 – Awareness of the problem/issue

#2 – Getting off the rush of “autopilot” and going “manual” so you recognize your patterns

#3 – Taking action to change the patterns you identify

Now you have awareness of the exhausting mental pattern of re-hashing things that upset you, aka the straw man inside your mind, you are well placed to stop fighting him.

Which means when you “hear” the conversation in your mind start, you go to step #1 and go manual.

Your action, step #3, might be to say, “Ah, it’s the straw man again, fighting him who isn’t real doesn’t serve me in any way.”

Now you can act from a position of personal power, move your thoughts away from the straw man, and onto something that serves you better. And that’s a great place to be, especially with all the negativity in the world right now.