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Sorry For My Backpack: How to Unload Your Mental Baggage

TIGNUM Thoughts

March 5th, 2022

Insights from the author

By Scott Peltin

Like many of you, we travel quite a bit and find ourselves often struck by the common occurrence of being whacked by another traveler’s backpack or purse. Whether it’s navigating through the restroom, maneuvering into our slotted position to enter the plane, or sitting in an aisle seat during the loading process, it seems impossible to avoid getting hit or even hitting others with the bags we carry on our backs and shoulders. As we pondered why this occurs and how we have lost the self-awareness of how our bags impede on others’ space, we were struck by the parallels of the mental backpack that we all also carry.


As we go through life and gather our experiences (good, bad, and indifferent), we tend to accumulate “stuff”. We carry this mental stuff with us, and it unconsciously impacts every interaction we have. It creeps into our mindset and creates biases, prejudices, and opinions without us even knowing about it. Sometimes our bags get so heavy that they lead to back, neck, and shoulder problems. Sometimes we swing our bags with such fervor that we actually hurt those around us. When we know our bag has struck someone, we probably (hopefully) apologize. But how many people do we bump into, and we are completely unaware?


Have you ever reflected on what your bag may hold on any given day? How are the things that you are carrying with you on that day holding you back from thinking clearly, focusing on your true priorities, or even reaching out to another person who may actually need your help? We have all experienced the rude person across from us who is literally in tears when his suitcase doesn’t fit into the overhead bin. Our initial reaction may be one of judgement and impatience with the way he spoke to the flight attendant and his sense of entitlement in expecting everyone on the plane to have somehow saved him space for his bag. But is he really that rude, or is that the story our brains make up based on what we’re carrying in our bag that day?


Along the way, there are always open moments when we could smile at our fellow travelers, and softly comment on how stressful travel can be. When we do this, we may just learn about the unique burden this person was carrying that day. In our coaching, we heard a story from one of our clients about how he almost missed his flight because he was running through the airport with his suitcase. The suitcase had his dress military uniform in it, so he wanted to keep it as a carry-on, rather than check it. He was heading to a funeral service for one of the guys from his army unit who had served his country, and he couldn’t miss it. When we are blinded by our own backpack, we miss the opportunity to share our condolences, thank others for their service, and reflect on how easy it can be to confuse rudeness for panic and anxiety.


Self-awareness, challenging our own biases and drama, forgiveness, reframing our self-talk, and being a learner with a passion for growth are all part of a High Performance Mindset. Is your backpack allowing you to develop these skills, or is it blocking you?

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