Do you think about changes that you’d like to make? Do you have days where you vow you will never do (or say) something to someone again, like you did today? Do you wish you could change your outlook or your attitude?
Most of us do. We do the things we don’t want to do, and don’t often do the things we know we should (and want to!) do. How come? Why does each day go by when we set out with the best of intentions but end up frustrated that we haven’t met our desired state?
Oftentimes we’re just not aware in the moment that we could make a different change. I talk about triggers a lot in my human behavior work. Triggers are when someone or something sets you off. You sometimes don’t even know why, they just irk you or rub you the wrong way. We get triggered and then we react. We react in the same old way, many times by saying something negative or doing something we don’t want to do. My husband looks at me a certain way, and I’m mad so I don’t speak to him. My daughter comes to ask me for a ride – I think she is ungrateful, so I get angry. My sister doesn’t call when she says she will, and I start to feel depressed because she doesn’t value me. My co-worker snaps her gum – I think it’s rude, so I avoid her all day.
The list goes on and on. Someone in our lives does something “to” us and then we react to what’s been done. But what if there were a different way to be in relationship with others? What if we could see our own reaction and understand how we are triggered at the time it is happening? What if we had more choice in how we responded?
The truth is that we do. We can decide to adopt what I call the “Interested Observer” approach to watching our own interactions at all times. There is a split second before we respond to anything where, if we can catch the trigger, we can decide to react in an entirely different manner than we always have done. In order to catch the trigger, it can be helpful to know what triggers us in advance – if we can watch for it, and understand where it might happen, we have more opportunity to choose differently next time.
This week, make a list of the people in your life. Identify what they do that “bugs” you. What do they say or what behavior do they engage in that triggers a negative response in you? Take the time to actually identify who, and what – list them clearly on a piece of paper. Next to each item, write down why this triggers you. What bothers you about this behavior? How do you judge it – is it disrespectful? Does it generate fear in you? Do you feel overwhelmed by it? What happens to you when this behavior gets set in motion, and why?
Now, look at the list – you don’t have to write down this part, but think about it. What if you just decided to let go and refuse to be triggered by the behavior? What if you didn’t respond at all? Would anything change? You’ve been responding to the behavior all along and yet the behavior continues to surface with this person – what if you made a different choice this time and just decided to let it go? What would happen to you?
Once you finish the list, choose one person and one trigger on that list. Determine that this week – today – you will work with this trigger and choose a different response. Don’t let today be another day that you wish you’d behaved differently. Make the conscious choice to just do it – now.