Ever feel like everything is just out of control? Like no matter what you do, or try to do, other things are controlling what happens?

Ever feel like most of your time is spent waiting for other people and things to decide what happens to you? Welcome to the real estate industry. I honestly cannot think of any other career where people have so little control over the outcome of their actions. As real estate agents, we have no control over so many things that when you stop to think about it you almost lose control of your mind.

We can’t control market fluctuations. We can’t control the price of oil. We can’t control what the home inspector finds. We can’t control what the bank says to clients applying for mortgages. We can’t control what’s being built or torn down in a neighbourhood. We can’t control changes to zoning laws. At times we can’t even control our clients. It’s a harsh reality that we as agents live with every day and if you’re not careful you can end up burning out because of it.

What I’m talking about is the point when we lose control of our thoughts. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had negative, bad thoughts fill our minds about the many ways a deal can go wrong. We think, “OMG, what if the home inspector finds something, what if they don’t get approved, what if they find another house with another agent” and on and on.

The good news is it’s perfectly natural to have these thoughts. The bad news is they can completely take over until you can’t think about anything else. You can obsess on them. We’ve all done that too. We’ve all let our mind take over and think whatever it wants to without us being able to control it. Not a good thing, not productive, not healthy and usually when the dust settles, it was a complete waste of time. So, how do you wrestle your mind under control when that happens?

I’m glad you asked. Here’s a little three-step technique I use to remind my mind just who’s in charge. It’s called Drop, Stop and Swap:


The first thing you do when you start to become overwhelmed with worries and negative thoughts is drop whatever you’re doing. If you’re with other people, excuse yourself for a moment. Maybe go to the nearest washroom. You need to focus for a moment. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to finish whatever you were doing, you will, it just means you need a quick moment alone.


Once you have ended the task you were doing, let your arms hang limp at your sides, close your eyes and take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. As you exhale through your mouth, again slow and full, whisper the word “stop”. After awhile that simple act will automatically shut those unwanted thoughts down.


Now you need to fill your blissfully empty mind with more pleasant things, so swap out what you were thinking for something else. Think of something that you can mentally picture, like a great meal that you can almost smell or a beach you were on where you can almost hear the gentle waves.

Once you’ve triggered the Drop, Stop and Swap response you’ll find that those annoying little thoughts that were threatening to drive you crazy are gone. Poof! Just like that. Now, obviously, the more you practice the quicker and easier it becomes.

These three simple steps only take a moment and they can give you hours of peace in return. Let’s face it, we can’t control a lot of things in this career so why bother even worrying about them? Will that change things? No. Will worrying influence an outcome? No. Is there anything we can do to stop those worrying thoughts? Yes.

Drop, Stop and Swap. A simple exercise that will help you maintain control over your own thoughts during those times when you feel so out of control. Trust me, it will give you a return that’s worth more than any commission cheque – peace of mind. Keep it in mind for when you need it.

Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.


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