We all get asked, several times a day, some variation of the question – How are you doing?
We rarely, if ever, answer truthfully. When asking others, we rarely, if ever, want the truth. It is a greeting akin to saying hello.
“How’s it going?”
And we move on.
I think, though, we need to ask ourselves that question during our day, and expect an honest answer from ourselves.
“Dave, How are you doing?” “pretty good, my day started a bit rough, but I think I took a minute and collected myself and things are going well.”
Here is the thing though, just understanding where you are emotionally and physically during the day is only half of the battle, we also need to ask ourselves this question. “What are you doing, or can you do to improve your day?” Even if your day is going well, could it be better? Probably. So these two questions form a part of the tapestry of your day. How are you? and, what can you do about it? Knowing that in a day your can range from great to terrible, form working well to beyond stressed, is very helpful, that knowledge alone may be enough to allow us to regroup, as it did for me this morning. Often, though we do need to take some time to figure out how we can change what is happening. We may also start to notice a pattern.
I recall working in a job where every time I met with one person I worked with, the rest of my day was not good. I was more stressed and reacted badly to whatever happened. It wasn’t that person’s intent to make my day bad, it wasn’t their intent to make me stressed,, they simply asked me questions in a way that triggered that response in me. I want to be clear, this was in every way, my issue. They asked real questions, but I reacted with stress and panic. I felt powerless and useless. Had I ever had the wherewithal to explain my feelings and reactions, i am quite confident this person would have been shocked and perhaps together we might have solved some of the problems in our communication. In the end, I left that job. It may have been the right call at the right time, but I made it for the wrong reasons.
A personal check up several times a day, probably would have helped me to identify the issue and what was causing much of my stress. There were parts of that situation, I could not in any way have controlled. So the fix might have been to remove myself from the position, which I did, but not through self awareness. There were parts of the situation that I absolutely could have changed. Knowing what was happening and evaluating what, if anything, I could do, might have made the rest of it tolerable.
Every day, we get to choose how we respond to the stimuli in our lives. Sometimes our responses are automatic, we respond without even knowing why. recognizing those patterns can help us to recognize and change those responses.
Know somebody who pushes your buttons all the time, you can learn that it is happening and how to deal with it. Here are some steps that might help you to control your automatic responses…
- Find time to be alone and allow yourself to feel whatever feelings are coming up for you. Your feelings are a valuable gift for you, but you will not receive it if you play the role of victim.
- Try to uncover the bottom line hurt you are experiencing. For instance, do you feel rejected? Misunderstood? Abandoned? Left out? Not enough? It is probably a familiar feeling that you have experienced before and you have an opportunity to bring some light to it.
- Ask yourself what this experience is triggering inside of you. What does it remind you of? When have you felt this way in the past? One of the main reasons we experience a big upset over something small is because buttons that get pushed have been there for a while.
- Determine the meaning you are giving to what happened. For instance, the person doesn’t respect your feelings. Relationships are too much work. Other people are selfish. You were right and they were wrong. You never get what you want. You need to protect yourself, etc.
- Ask yourself if the meaning you are giving to what happened is truly serving you. Is it supporting you in growing and communicating authentically? Most likely the answer is no because the initial meaning we give to something when we are hurt does not come from an empowering place.
- Be grateful for this growth experience and extract the lessons you received from this upset. What did it teach you? How can you use it for your growth?
- Share authentically with the person who triggered the upset what you experienced, what you are taking responsibility for and what you learned.
Communicating from this place takes COURAGE. It takes courage to get out of your own reactive patterns. It takes courage to process your own upset rather than looking to someone else to blame and/or make it better for you. It takes courage to communicate authentically from a place of vulnerability.
I am not good at this, but I hope I am getting better. Sometimes growth is small and it always takes a lot of time to really change, so have patience with yourself. Look back in a year and see if you are different. Learn your triggers and take steps to avoid them and begin to change your reactions to them.
My dad was my model for how to drive. My mom taught me the mechanics, but my dad was my model. He was a very good, and very aggressive, driver. He liked to be in the front of the train of cars, so he passed the others. Driving on the Trans- Canada highway, that is a lot of passing and on mountain roads, tight passing. For most of my driving life, I emulated him. About a year ago, I noticed something. I was driving my family in the car, and my wife was, as usual, scared, as it was a busy road, and I was driving aggressively, passing to get to the front of the cars. She told me that I needed to get over, so we could make our exit. I flipped, yelled at her and totally had an, out of all proportions reaction. That day, I took stock of myself, why had I freaked out. She had not done anything wrong, but my reaction was ridiculous. I realized that I took her nervousness personally, like she was attacking me, and then when she told me not to miss the exit, I took that personally. How dare she tell me how to drive! How dare she be nervous! I was in control, I “knew” what I was doing.
Once I realized what was happening, I examined the triggers and realized that as I drove, I always went what I thought was an acceptable 10 km/h over the speed limit and often more than that. It was part of the aggressiveness. So, I changed. I now drive at or very near the speed limit, I let cars pass me. I find that because I changed my focus while driving, my whole demeanour is changed, I let people in, I don’t…or try not to…take it personally when cut off. I, and this is not a small thing, treat my wife better. I treat her like the full partner and incredible person she is. She deserves to be treated like that. Well, let’s face it she deserves better, I married way up, but I am trying hard to become the man, the person she deserves as her partner in life.
I know, it seems like a small thing to change the speed your drive, but I think it made a big change in our lives.
Reflection can be huge, even in small things.
So, take time for yourself, do a self-checkup. Have patience with yourself, and be honest.