Are you going through your life on auto-pilot? Are you letting your reactions and responses to life’s circumstances and events be dictated by your previous values, attitudes, and beliefs…or are your responses a result of living in the present?
Most people tend to react (act again) as they go through life. They react to other people’s conscious, or unconscious desire, or ability to “push” their buttons, or to situations without operating in the now moments of their lives. Their reactions find their origin in their learned attitudes, beliefs, expectations, prejudices, values or historically directed emotions. When we react from the history of our past, we take the risk of:
- reacting inappropriately
- reacting too quickly
- reacting too slowly
Any of these responses to any set of circumstances or people are doomed to cause continued stress, anxiety, and continued, un-resolved personal feelings.
When a person reacts without being totally conscious or thinking out of the now, they’ll often say or do things they’ll regret later.
Here are a few strategies to consider the next time you find yourself out of emotional control due to another person or an event.
- Take a quality pause, a brief 2-3 second break where you say to yourself – I do have a choice. I can react the way I normally would have to this stimulus or I can react differently. With the quality pause you can get out of auto-pilot and into the present.
- Develop the habit of counting to 5, slowly, before you speak or act as a result of a stimulus.
- Give someone you are close to the permission to alert you (make you aware) each and every time you react without pausing or taking the time to think through your response.
- Create personal anchors (a personal reminder) that automatically kicks in every time you find yourself losing emotional control. Thought-stoppers work well here. (What’s a thought-stopper? An example might be to place an elastic band around your wrist…one about a quarter of an inch wide…and each time you find yourself into negative thought, or losing emotional control…just pull the band back and let it go. Whatever you were thinking about will be gone in a flash. Another way is to simply shout “stop” loudly to yourself…making sure you won’t embarrass yourself in public. Even though you do the shouting, and you knew you were going to, it still jars your thinking enough to let you move to the positive thought, behavior, or response.
Living life out of auto-pilot is to live incompletely…to live the past. To live in the present…the now…only requires that you become conscious every time you are functioning from memory, expectations, or in the future.