If you watch the Bravo Channel, you regularly see deckhands, housewives and roommates in full react mode, screaming and yelling because of something someone said or did.
And we see this daily in real-life: in a store when someone refuses to wear their mask, on a highway when someone cuts another person off, a comment on social media. Kaboom. An explosion of self-unregulated ire. Tit for tat. Retaliation. All-out war.
We have all become so accustomed to being activated by the actions of others that we don’t even realize when someone affects us in an unproductive way.
The real question is why? Why do we let others yang us here and there, activate us to lose our cool so we act in ways we say are against our values, and do and say things we regret?
This past year was so full of challenges that it’s little wonder we are all super stressed. And because of that constant stress, it really doesn’t take much to flip the switch and set us off. Our quick triggers, coupled with an increased social acceptance of bad behaviors, has led to little or no self-regulation, even among those who should be setting a better example (like politicians, celebrities and even our mentors, neighbors, family members and friends).
To combat this growing tit for tat mindset, I have committed to this phrase: How you act won’t influence how I show up.
Let me show you a couple of real-world examples of what this looks like.
Example 1: On the evening news the other night was a story about a couple who lost their cool. They were driving back into their gated community in a prestigious town in South Florida. They didn’t have their access card so the guard at the gatehouse, not knowing them, asked for their licenses. As he did his required background checks, this couple became irate at the inconvenience, got out of their car and screamed at the guard. Unaffected and continuing his background process, the husband hit the guard, causing the guard to hit his head on the glass of the guard booth. The guard maintained his cool, finished the background check and gave them access. The husband was charged with assault. The guard was applauded for his self-control.
Example 2: Early in my career, I worked for a super tense manager. Things had to be exactly as he wanted or he would meltdown, scream, bully and swear. This was a daily event, and it was frequently over the smallest things. It was quite normal to hear raging arguments as members of the team fought back, egged on by his horrid behavior. Nothing seemed to ever please this manager. One by one, everyone quit because dealing with him was not worth the effort, me included. It was in this moment that I promised myself I would never let the antics or negative behaviors of another influence who I am or how I show up. That was, and would always be, my choice.
Self-control. Self-regulation. The ability not to be set into unproductive motion every time something happens or someone says something you don’t like. To respond starts with each of us. We each must make a commitment to be in charge of – and in control of – how we show up to each of the events of life.
So how do you develop and maintain this self-regulation? By developing a mindful practice. It could include a variety of things that help you get re-centered, like journaling, breathing and meditation. Each of these can prepare you to move through tough situations with tough people calmly and gracefully.
Stop and notice the people in your life. Who activates you to react? Why? What would it take for you to remember that who you are and how you show up is always your choice?
No one makes you be or act in any particular way. You choose it. Sure, there are people who can push your buttons, if you let them. There are people who can get you to descend into petty behaviors, if you let them. There are people who can get you to do horrible things, like post insults on social media, if you let them. Or you can decide who you are and who you will be in every moment, of every day, regardless of what others do.
Clearly define who you are and who you will be in your encounters with others. Notice that when you choose to be the one who stays calm and responds with grace, you don’t get pulled into the drama and self-unregulated actions of others. Your decisions are wiser. Your life is happier.
You are your life’s owner.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Confidence in a COVID World