Have you ever noticed that it seems to be the little things that sometimes trigger some of our most emotional reactions?

Sometimes it’s the woman who holds up the lunch line , or a steaming pile of dog poo on the sidewalk, or the colleague who chews… no, smacks! while eating during the meeting.

So how is it, that you handled this morning’s business crisis with ease and confidently settled a dispute among teams in the afternoon… but then you come across one of life’s paper cuts, and find yourself triggered? What is it about these tiny irritations that cause such disproportionate reactions?

I think the answer lies in self-control. You see, I don’t think self-control is an unlimited resource… at least, not without intentional investment. Throughout the day, I think if we really stop and observe, we’ll sense that our self-control is methodically being consumed. And without rest or replenishment, we simply begin to run low. That’s when the paper cuts begin to affect us.

So, what can we do about this? If we’re aware that we working with a limited resource, we can:

  1. Keep a close watch on that gauge. We sense when we’re at 50% and develop a heightened awareness of when we start hitting that bottom 20% red zone.
  2. Test and confirm effective ways of replenishing self-control. For one, it may be 15 minutes of yoga behind a closed office door. For another, it could be headphones, eyes closed, and favorite song blasting at full volume.
  3. Institute replenishment time. If self-control tends to run low around 3PM, or after a particular weekly meeting, block a small window to do your thing and bring that meter back up. Rest.

What do you find to be some of life’s most irritating paper cuts? And how do you replenish your self-control?