Breaking Point

We all have one. Personally and professionally, we each have that point at which we can take no more, do no more, be no more. And it may vary from day to day.  Not to mention the fact that you may be able to tolerate more for longer periods of time professionally than you can personally, or vice versa.  But inevitably, there will come a time when you reach your breaking point.  None of us are immune.  You can probably recall plenty of examples of this for not only yourself but for your colleagues, family and friends as well.  The question is not IF you will reach your breaking point…it is a matter of WHEN and in WHAT MANNER you will reach it.

Anyone who interacts at all with other people (which is like 99.9% of us) recognizes that there are cycles to human behavior. (And if you have ever read about moon phases you may also recognize that our behavior patterns follow along quite interestingly with the phases of the moon.) Additionally, our behaviors and interactions with others are strongly impacted by those around us – we pick up the energy of those around us.  So it shouldn’t be any surprise when in one particular week at work and/or at home you experience numerous people having melt downs, people being more irritable than normal, an increase in fights and other discipline issues, or a combination of any or all of those things.  (This, by the way, is exactly what I experienced this past week.)  We seem to feed off of each other and in a way it becomes kind of like a domino effect…once one goes, others will surely follow.  This is something I have consistently witnessed both in my time as a teacher and more recently in my years in Human Resources.  There seems to be certain times of the year (particularly just before a holiday break or if we were in the midst of a lengthy period when we had little time off), when we would have more discipline issues…I mean as in one right after the other, almost non-stop.  It was a marked difference from the “norm”.  Seemingly they had reached their limits to deal with one another and just couldn’t handle it anymore and so they blew up, acted out, started swinging at each other, etc.

So how then do you handle it when you reach your own breaking point? How do you rebound after you reach that point? What do you do to bounce back?  What do you do to rebuild the relationships that were collateral damage in the process of moving beyond that breaking point?  Let’s be honest, most people understand that you reach your breaking point because, as previously mentioned, we all do.  We can be understanding and forgiving that someone hits their breaking point.  The damage comes in what you do when you reach that point and how you handle things after the fact.  That’s when we do the most damage.  Honesty, humility, authenticity, remorse…just a few things that can really make a difference as you try to come back from that breaking point and pick up with people and things as they were prior to you hitting your limit.  In other words own your break and the things that came out of it.

Some final thoughts – Dorothy McFalls said it well – “Everyone has a breaking point. Deny it, and you’ll blind yourself to know when you’ve reached yours.” Recognizing you have a breaking point and where/when it is may be one of the most important things you can know about yourself. Self-awareness in general is an incredibly valuable thing…but knowing your triggers, working to prevent those triggers from negatively impacting you, and finding ways to bounce back quickly and effectively hen you do reach your breaking point can be the difference in how successfully you navigate hitting your breaking point overall.