In my last two newsletters, I have been writing about the concept of Emotional Intelligence as it relates to our personal and professional success in life. That is, people who tend to thrive in life do three things really well: Manage Themselves, Motivate Themselves, and Manage Other People.


One of the hardest things we will ever do on this planet, is to learn how to manage ourselves, especially under times of stress, frustration, and change. And we all know, life can be all about those things sometimes!

In my last article, I introduced the concept of “Emotional Hijacking” – i.e., when life overloads us with stressful trigger- points which can bounce us out of balance and kick us out of a calm orbit of control.

“How do I deal with life when it doesn’t go my way?” is one of the most enlightening questions we can ask ourselves; because it reveals our true repertoire when we face the everyday and moment by moment challenges of living.

I would like to share with you one of my favorite psychological “tricks of the trade” which may help in reducing the power of trigger-point-stressors. It is called THE 999 RULE.

Basically, The 999 Rule is a mental gymnastic which you can apply immediately in the midst of a pressurized spot of difficulty; for example, going home from work today some individual pulls out in front of you, just missing your front bumper by three feet….you are irritated, arising toward anger, and eventually an emotional melt-down! Your heart rate increases, and you are ready to give that person some unique sign language through your windshield, if not yell at them or honk your horn.

Instead of doing the above, take a deep breath and do the 999 Rule: ask yourself these three questions within this context (person cut me off in traffic): 1) Will this matter to me in 9 days? 2) Will this matter to me in 9 weeks?
3) Will this matter to me in 9 months? Clearly, the answer is NO. It most likely will not matter to you in nine minutes.

You see, one of the arts of living is learning how to distinguish between that which is really really really important; and that which is just “nickel and dime stuff.” Employing the 999 Rule can help one do just that; things which are really vital are things which tend to last a long time.

Once, I did an experiment upon myself; I kept a spiral notepad in my pocket and monitored myself for a full day. Every time a stress-event happened to me, I would apply the 999 Rule. I am driving along, for instance, someone pulls in front of me too close for comfort; I pull over to the side of the road – take out my notepad and record the instance (“Got cut off in traffic 3:49PM on Hwy”), and then ask myself the 999 Rule questions: Will this matter to me in nine days, nine weeks, or nine months? And of course, I would write down the answer – no.

After 24 hours of this experiment, what do you think I discovered about my life? Most things don’t matter.

Remember, in the larger picture, that which is really important in life is that which tends to last a long time. If it is transitory or short-lived; learn the skill of letting it go.


This simple technique may save you from an emotional explosion, high blood pressure, or certainly give you a sense of control over the thumps and bumps of living. Try it out – it may work for you – or at least, help give a valuable perspective on what to hold onto and what to let go of…..

In the next issue, Lessons From the Lab, I’ll talk about the 2nd M of success – Motivating Ourselves. And it all has to do with a marshmallow.

Stay tuned for that.
All the best,
Psychologist and Humorist, Bruce Christopher Bruce Christopher Seminars