Happiness Concierge
Ace work and life.

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Traffic Light System.

The objective of this exercise is to learn how to manage behaviours we (all) exhibit when under stress.

Download the free worksheet with examples here.

The Traffic Light System helps individuals articulate when they perform at their best, and what conditions contribute to not communicating at their best. Individuals who attend these session report the concept of a 'circuit breaker' has fundamentally changed the way they think about managing emotions at work - and at home.


Most of us find it easy to articulate what frustrates us, but not all of us find it easy to articulate what helps us kick ass at work.

When we see how our thoughts influence our feelings, we are in a stronger position to manage the behaviours associated with what's going on in our heads. And kick ass behaviour benefits not just our productivity - but everyone around us, including our direct reports, colleagues, friends and even our relationships outside of work. That's why this model is important.


My traffic light system focusses on a psychological tool used to manage the behaviour across humans and animals under the ABC model of understanding behaviour:

A - the environment which predates the behaviour

B - the behaviour (good, neutral, negative)

C - the consequence as a result of said behaviour

The first step:

identify what feelings and behaviours you are experiencing in the following three 'zones':

  • Green - kick ass, slaying, badass you. How you feel, act, influence others when you feel in control, working and performing to your highest value. How do you feel when you're kicking ass at work?  What are the contributing factors? What environment are you in? What else is contributing to this?
  • Yellow - what's happening in your body and mind that gives you clues that something doesn't feel quite right? What emotions do you feel and behaviours do you exhibit before you feel 'out of control'?
  • Red - what words can you describe to bring to life what 'out of control' means for you? If you find it hard to articulate this - you're not alone. Seldom are we encouraged to actively articulate bad behaviour, yet, by understanding how we act under stress, we have an opportunity to prevent it.


Now we want to see what clues (these are called patterns of behaviours) we have to help us understand what takes us unto our yellow and red zones. Once we understand contributing factors, we are in a stronger position to manage our feelings and emotions back into the green zone. The goal here is to be in a stronger position to notice when we are in the yellow zone and then create a new thought or habit to help us return back to green. These are called Circuit Breakers. 

Cookie Monster knows all about Circuit Breakers.


  • Green: I feel in control, positive, full of energy and lots of patience and praise for others. Usually this happens when I've balanced my alone time with people time, am doing work that makes me feel like I'm adding kick ass value and I'm working with people who rock my world.
  • Yellow: I feel anxious, distracted, likely to check my phone or social media for no apparent reason. Less tolerant of others and likely to roll my eyes, smile less and sigh loudly. Often I haven't had enough down time.
  • Red: I feel angry, annoyed, frustrated and more likely to be sarcastic and mean to others. More likely to be critical of others and see little opportunity for improvement. Usually I'm over tired, have taken on too much work and haven't been to the gym in a while.


  • Being aware of them as they happen is a good first step. When I notice my body and behaviour changing, remove myself from the situation.
  • Pay more attention to when I'm first in that 'yellow' zone and ask myself "is it really that important?"
  • Stop more regularly during the day to ... STOP and take stock of what I've done well so far.
  • Make it a fun team thing. Give my team yellow cards and give them the OK to use them when either myself or others are going into their yellow zone. Give a reward for the individual who receives the least amount of yellow cards each week.

Managing yourself is the best way to make the biggest impact. Give your boss, colleagues, friends and loved ones the gift of being a grown up and managing your feelings so you can continue to kick ass in work and in life.