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I find as I go through my day that there are times I’m not feeling at my best, and I begin to look for reasons why. I will scan my environment hoping to find some reason to be a victim. When my eyes are open for a right to be angry, I will find one. A big part of mindset work is dealing with this part of us that searches for the negative, searches for victimhood, and searches for ways to take offense. But what if the offense is real, what if it’s so glaringly obvious that someone has done something that cannot be ignored? What if you have a real right to be angry? Let’s explore in 5 4 3 2 1
When I began this self-improvement journey two and a half years ago, I learned that it was my choice to respond or react to stimuli in my environment. I learned that I had a knack for creating conspiracy theories – things that weren’t really going through someone’s mind, but I attributed them with having those thoughts anyways. “She’s just vacuuming right now because she knows it bothers me,” or “He sits in his car in the driveway for ten minutes before coming in from work because he doesn’t want to be around me.” Those sorts of thoughts.
I was mostly able to eradicate the conspiracy theories, and when they do crop up from time to time, I can recognize them for what they are and put the theory to rest with the full knowledge that I can never know what someone is thinking or what their motivation is, and to guess is a futile exercise. And when for whatever reason, I’m feeling offended, or spoken down to, or any other manner of communication that bothers me, I still get to control my response – as Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – humans have control over something that happens in between the stimuli and the response.
When a bug lands in a spiderweb, the spider rushes out to sting it and wrap it up in more web. There is no decision made. The spider does not have a choice. Spider can’t say, “that’s not really the biggest meal for me, so I should probably let it go and wait for something bigger to come along.” That’s not in the arachnid’s tool kit. But we are different. We have an in-between space where we get to imagine the outcome, apply all of our knowledge to a momentary decision that will increase our likelihood of a better future.
We get to use that in-between space to decide how we want to react, explore some options, and choose one to suit us. Then we act. We are in control of a lot more than we think. We are in control of whether we get mad or be kind, or speak up, or quiet down. We are in control of the words we choose, and the attitude behind it. We may not be in complete control of the emotions, but we are in control of our actions. Emotions are never good or bad to have, they just are. That doesn’t negate our power over our actions.
It’s possible that we have this because we are able to imagine, to imagine what the future will be like, and the knowledge that if we change our actions right now, the future could be more pleasant for us. Habits are simply how we override that in-between space, by acting in a certain way to certain stimuli over and over again – acting in a way we have chosen in advance – to save some mental space by ignoring the in-between with actions that are beneficial in some way.
And habits bring me back around to my right to be angry. Because even though I used all of this information to stop seeking the bad, and to quit looking for offensive things, I still had a problem. If I felt that I had a genuine right to be angry or offended, I somehow thought it was my duty to get angry and act angry, and make sure people knew that I was angry. If the offense was blatant, and I wasn’t seeking it out or looking for a reason, then I knew that I must be angry.
Now I don’t want you to picture me going on a tirade through the house, throwing things, kicking the wall, etc… But if I could grab on to a genuine offense, I’d hop on and ride it for all it was worth. And this was a habit. I didn’t understand yet that I could choose this, too.
I think I was washing dishes listen to a Brain Tracy seminar on my phone, and he kept saying, “I’m responsible,” over and over again. My first thought was a joke. I thought – my life will be way easier if Brian Tracy is responsible for everything bad that happens. Then I had another one of those crazy epiphanies – I could clearly see what I had been doing.
I had been living a life where I mostly didn’t give grace to anyone. Grace is a beautiful word, and a beautiful idea. I lived in a place in my mind that had zero. I didn’t let up; I didn’t let the people around me be free to make their own mistakes. I was on a self-improvement journey, so heck, yeah, I’m allowed to make mistakes. But nobody around me has the same freedom. At least not with me. I will grab on to that mistake and make you feel awful about it. That’s how powerful I am.
But real power comes with grace. It doesn’t come with the immaturity of being angry because you have the right; or being angry because you’re somehow allowed the opportunity. Power comes in making the decision not to take offense, and to not feel like you’re wasting a good chance to be angry.
All of this to say – make grace your habit. Make understanding, and clarification, and humility a habit. You can change that that – you have the power in the in-between space – between stimuli and reaction – to become something much, much greater. And all you have to do is choose it.
This week in your journal, look for ways that you take offense. Examine your hot buttons and how you react each time one is pressed, and then write down how you wished you responded to each of these. And then write down, “It doesn’t have to be a wish. I can choose this reality.”
I’ll see you all in the Ideas and Concepts group on facebook – the link is in the description. I’ll be here every Monday and Thursday until anomalies are a regular occurrence.