Often when I’m confronted by aspects of my life that I don’t “like” ( a recalcitrant teenager, friends who disappoint, frustrating work issues), I have to sit myself down, breathe, calm my thoughts and purposefully consider my next steps. If I don’t take this step, I’m likely to react in ways that will only exacerbate the negative feelings I’m already experiencing. If I don’t discipline myself, I will resort to childish behavior such as getting into a fruitless argument with my teenager. Or perhaps I’ll stew over how a friend should or shouldn’t treat me, or “catastrophize” a work situation. These actions are the result of feeling anger, fear, resentment…feelings I’ve decided don’t help me be the person I want to be.
Instead, I find it helpful to ask myself, how do you want to show up as a mom, friend, ex-wife? How do I act as an emotional adult rather than a petty, fear-based emotional child? When I choose to view these circumstances as a way to strengthen my character and become an emotional adult, my actions take on a rational, productive and positive nature. It reminds me that I’ve chosen to live from the principle that my thoughts create my feelings, not the circumstances. If my kid won’t get out of bed before 2 p.m. on the weekends, I don’t have to spin stories about how lazy and irresponsible she is. I don’t have to project to a future where she doesn’t graduate from college or hold down a job. I don’t have to raise my voice and show anger so that she’ll get out of bed and get active. But, it takes determination to not act in that way, because my brain has thought these old thoughts so many times in the past. It resists changing. It urges me to act out of emotion: get angry, get frustrated, be disappointed. Instead, I must choose new thoughts that serve my purpose: “this is not a crisis–you want to model for your child emotional intelligence, not crazy screaming and yelling” etc.
If my ex is not acting the way I “think” he should, it’s my work to decide how I want to respond. Do I scold him? (Never works, only creates more turmoil) Do I obsess and worry about what he’s doing? (An energy suck, keeps me in endless loop of negative thoughts). Or, do I recognize that he’s an adult and it’s his job to determine how he wants to behave, even when I disagree. My goal with him is to remain an emotional adult: not blaming him for how I feel; communicating in a respectful way; managing my emotions so that they don’t spill over him. Not that I do this perfectly all the time, by any means. However, my decision about who I want to be is the compass that keeps me headed in the right direction.
It takes commitment to manage our thoughts and emotions. It takes commitment to declare “this is who I choose to be, no matter what”. It takes commitment to change thoughts and behaviors we’ve practiced for decades in order to evolve and grow.
It requires inner fortitude to not succumb to the nagging voices of a freaked out or unhappy mind. It’s a little like training a wild animal that keeps running off whenever you are inattentive even for a split second. You must continually bring back your thoughts to neutral ground, unbiased and univested in particular outcomes” -from the Tao Oracle, Ma Deva Padma
We can decide who we want to be. We can leave behind outworn thoughts and feelings and emerge into our best self. There is so much life ahead of us: let’s live it with purpose.