When Caught in a Sticky Situation, Give it Up and Go Fishing

Donna Darr Care for people, Doctoral Program

Donna Darr cropMy husband, Rich, and I hit a flashpoint early this summer while in the process of co‑authoring a case study that we committed to present at the 2014 Irish Academy of Management Conference in Limerick, Ireland.

Despite our enthusiasm and commitment to publishing together for the first time, we were suddenly sidelined by our seemingly opposite assumptions of how we would actually go about it. Rich envisioned it one way. I envisioned something else. The more we talked about it, the more we realized we were stuck. And with a bit of rising fear and frustration in both us, we started to question ourselves and how we ever came up with this knuckle-headed idea (or so it seemed in the moment).

Suddenly, Rich had a better idea. “It’s the weekend,” he said. “Let’s get out of here and go fishing.”

It was one of those about‑face moments in life. Though he said none of it at the time, Rich reasoned that it was more important right then to lighten up and get back to being positive by doing something we both love to do. We know that our positive energy amps up when we pile the fishing poles in the SUV, stop at the bait shop and buy some live leeches (irresistible to bass), and get lost for awhile in nature. We keep it easy, too, by practicing catch-and-release.

“You can actually change in seconds.” According to emotional intelligence researcher Richard Boyatzis, we need to “amp up” the amount of our positive emotions in order to overcome and offset the ill effects of negative emotions related to problems, expectations, pessimism, and fear.  And psychology researcher and professor Barbara Fredrickson’s research reveals that even in trying times, leading with positive emotions improves coping and fuels resilience.

“You can actually change in seconds. The more you do this, the sooner you can invoke it,” affirms Boyatzis. There are proven ways to do it too. Listen to music. Laugh out loud. Practice yoga or Tai Chi. Pray. Do moderate physical exercise. Be in a loving relationship. Pet a dog, cat, or a horse. Get a massage. Get into the great outdoors.

Long story short, the case study eventually came together, and it worked out well. We presented it and got some enthusiastic feedback at the conference in Ireland.  But more importantly, I hope we’ll remember the key to getting it done. There’s something about that catch-and-release practice. When you’re releasing your catch of the day back into the lake, we’ve discovered that you can release the tension of the day right along with it.


Donna Darr is a Visiting Professor, Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University, and a doctoral student with the Center for Values-Driven Leadership.

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