• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Our wake up call

Our wake up call

A “Wake up call” is a commonly used term and one definition I found for it is that it’s, “an event that alerts people to a danger or difficulty”. Perhaps better still is this definition which says it’s, “a thing that alerts people to an unsatisfactory situation and prompts them to remedy it”. If I may add to this, I would also call it an awakening.

It has been widely documented since that eventful day, September 11, 2001, how the catastrophe had the effect of impelling a significant number of Americans to take stock of their lives. The daily rat race they were so used to running in autopilot, paused abruptly, as the calamity literally stopped all in their tracks. As a result of this horrific tragedy and the subsequent trauma, many found themselves seeking more meaning to life.

What was life really all about? It was a wild wake-up call that “life was too short” for one to spend all his time doing things which didn’t bring fulfillment. But do you know the interesting thing? It wasn’t only those in New York or in America who experienced this rude awakening. Modern technology meant the frightful sight of the two commandeered aeroplanes, plowing into the twin towers of the famous World Trade Centre, was broadcast simultaneously across the globe. It was as if the whole world stood still. And for a moment, it did.

Truth is, this awakening happens to all of us at one time or the other during the course of our lives. Let me correct that. It happens repeatedly and at different stages throughout our lifetime. At times, it could be triggered by an event as dramatic as 09/11, such as miraculously surviving what should have been a fatal gunshot or by tragically losing a loved one. Other times, it could be a pivotal but joyous occasion such as becoming a parent, but sometimes it could be something as relatively mundane as reaching a landmark age; turning 40 or 50.

No matter how brilliant, diligent or resilient you think you are, (and we Nigerians pride ourselves in our toughness) if you haven’t learned to recognize, listen to and manage your emotions, you could be done for

This too is often enough to force one to reappraise his or her priorities. As human beings, we will all encounter moments in life when it would only be natural for us to pause, take stock of where our past decisions have taken us to in life and juxtapose our accomplishments or lack of them, with our dreams. Are we living our ideal life? We may ask ourselves. Whatever it is that makes us take a step back, the important thing is that we’re sufficiently self-aware to “listen” to our emotions; alert enough to pick up on the signals.

Most of us know what it’s like to desperately need a job and then the relief of finally getting one. You find yourself doing everything to fit in and adapt to the organization’s ways of doing things. But have you ever felt you may have adapted to the culture and values of your workplace so much that it felt like you were losing yourself? You can hardly recognize yourself anymore as you’ve become accustomed to doing things at work that used to be incompatible with who you were.

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If you feel a restlessness or an uneasiness coming over you and you just feel like you’re not enjoying it anymore, no matter how good the emoluments and perks are, then that’s a clear signal. A signal that you need to pause and reassess things. Failure to notice these signals, maybe because they build up so gradually over time; or failure to make a conscious decision to free yourself when you feel trapped – usually because one is unable to let go of the financial security the job offers you – makes you a perfect candidate for a stress-related illness. Heart attacks and strokes are the most common of these and the most grievous.

There’s no need to say too much about this as I’m sure we can all recall instances, even if we weren’t actually present, when a friend, relative, colleague or a member of our staff slept and just didn’t wake up. Or slumped at his desk and that was it. Or as was the case with someone I knew, the driver just noticed his Oga had stopped responding mid-conversation as he drove him. She was gone.

I compare this to having a drink of water when you’re really parched. As is so typical of us human beings in life generally, we will often pour more water than we actually need and so we fill the big glass to the brim. So, there you are, happily swigging down your glass of water. At first it feels heavenly; like you can drink a whole river dry and so you gulp it down as if there was no tomorrow. It’s ever so refreshing and satisfying but in an instance and without the slightest warning, the feeling turns a corner. All of a sudden, it’s no longer enjoyable. Your thirst, which just a second before seemed insatiable is not just thoroughly quenched but drinking further now feels more like a punishment than anything else.

That’s precisely the same way we punish ourselves. And that’s why those who refuse to take heed of the warning signals end up just shutting down. This is an instinctive psycho-physiological reaction to protect the mind and body from “overload” as a result of acute and chronic stress. Worse still happens to those who continue to push even after hitting this proverbial brick wall.

So what am I saying? No matter how brilliant, diligent or resilient you think you are, (and we Nigerians pride ourselves in our toughness) if you haven’t learned to recognize, listen to and manage your emotions, you could be done for. Emotional intelligence is essential.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.