The Art of Perfect Timing
By Martha Beck
Following Your Internal Clock
Most "timing's perfect!" enthusiasts don't need these kinds of tests. They're constantly aware of their internal timekeepers, respecting information and intimations, preparing to avoid danger or pursue opportunity. By contrast, people who bewail their bad timing often ignore, even actively reject, facts and premonitions that could help them better plan their actions. True, everyone is subject to good and bad events. But the laws of probability mean that extreme strokes of fortune, positive or negative, occur rarely and end quickly. If you ask people (as I often do) how they make decisions, "lucky" people will talk about tuning in to information and instincts, while "unlucky" people often mention pushing away the uncomfortable feeling they were headed for trouble.
Jackie and Cleo are classic examples. They both knew that their industry was in trouble, and they both had strong hunches that they'd be laid off. Jackie reacted by clinging ever more tightly to her doomed job; Cleo started planning a different life. Each woman sensed the ship was sinking, but Jackie lashed herself to the mast and frantically swabbed the deck, while Cleo calmly launched a lifeboat.
So how do you tune in to your timekeeping impulses? Ironically, the only way to access your inner guide about the future is to fully occupy the present. By noticing everything you're feeling—physically, emotionally, and intuitively—in any given moment, you maximize your awareness of the "exquisitely refined" nonverbal timekeeper nudging your noggin. These are the strategies I've found most effective at keeping me in the right place at the right time:
1. Take a relaxed breath and exhale fully. Before inhaling again, rest in the pause between breaths. Focus on your heartbeat and the pulse in your hands, feet, and scalp. As you return to breathing normally, remain aware of your pulse throughout your body. This anchors you in the present and keeps you calm during the next steps.
2. Acknowledge that you can't change anything that's already happened. Sometimes that's a shame, but it's just plain true.
3. Accept that many things about the future are unknowable and beyond your control. Scary? Oh, yes—but again: true.
4. Recognize whatever's happening right now (you'd be amazed how often we try to deny what's going on). If the present is miserable, this step can hurt—but not nearly as much as living with the consequences of denial.
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