The key to making good choices is the ability to accurately assess what is happening in the moment.
If our responses to people and events are based on old, outdated and inappropriate past reactions, it will be more difficult to become proactive.
Identify, Challenge and Replace
My last three posts have dealt with emotions and how patterns of thinking and feeling are established. Understanding how and why we feel the way we do can help us take advantage of opportunities. When anxiety, fear, or anger constantly overwhelm us, we will have difficulty finding the solutions we need.
How do we know if our emotional responses are based on the here and now instead of past experiences? We do that by becoming aware of our patterns of behavior and challenging the logic and reliability of the automatic thoughts and beliefs associated with them.
Some emotions are more troubling than others, such as anger and hate. If you find yourself constantly feeling angry and resentful you need to explore their origins.
Such strong emotions over time erode your ability to think productively, make good decisions and accomplish your goals. And even more troubling, there are serious consequences to your overall physical and mental health.
How negative emotions start
But where do these underlying and constant feelings of irritation, anger and hatred come from? Why have they become my typical response to life?
What would life be like if we couldn’t experience the love and joy of holding our newborn baby, or that deep satisfaction when we achieved something we worked hard for?
And who can forget that exhilarating feeling of cheering for our favorite sports team or the pride you feel when your kids work hard at doing something well?
Life would be dull, boring and depressing if we couldn’t experience the wonderful panorama of emotions available to us. Even when we are sad and disappointed, we know that it is temporary, and we will return to those good moments.
But life can be dark and threatening – bleak and depressing if we remain in the constellation of thoughts that hold us hostage to fear, discouragement, anxiety or anger. After awhile we lose sight of the good feelings and good times.
Taking charge of your time and your life requires not only being aware of your current habits, but knowing how to replace habits that aren’t working. Taking charge means putting in place a new time management schedule that meets your purposes and goals.
It will require self-regulation and self-discipline. The word “discipline” often triggers a negative response based on our childhood interpretation of discipline. But now it is a positive tool allowing you to do the things you want to do.
Self-regulation doesn’t mean every moment is regulated in some way or that we lead a regimented life with no pleasure or down times. In fact, when you put a time management plan in place, you will find you have more time than you did before. You are able to schedule in fun and pleasant times as well as the accomplishment of tasks and chores.
But habits and behaviors have consequences. They might make us feel good in the moment but have a negative long-term cost.
To make habits work for you, it is important to know which ones keep you from maximizing your time and efforts.
For example, you may decide that this is a good time for you to go back to school and get an advanced degree or training. Before you do, it is helpful to know how you currently use your time and what you do on a regular basis.
What wasted time can be redirected?
What current habits would interfere with completing your course work?
While it might be difficult to grasp the concept that setbacks can be one of our greatest life opportunities, it is when we are forced by circumstances to stop and evaluate that we can reflect, examine, and discover what works and get rid of what hinders our progress.
When we know what isn’t working, we can replace it with a new program that gives us the tools to succeed.
How do we start over when we feel there are no solutions to our problems?
When we get knocked down, we not only get discouraged, but waste our creative energy striking out or blaming others for our difficulties or distress. Remaining in that mindset takes away our personal power, and as we learned in the post on forgiveness, we can remain in a never-ending toxic cycle of bitterness and anger. Our focus remains on what we can’t do and not on what we can do.
Bridges are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity, rising high above deep gorges, over rivers and large bodies of water. I am fascinated by the ingenuity required to design such lofty and expansive works that are both practical and majestic; a combination of beauty and strength.
I like to use the analogy of bridges because we are constructing them every day. They make connections between couples and families. They bridge the gap between our past and future and expand our possibilities as we move from one venture to another.
We’ve been thinking about the stories we create to define what we are going through. We learned that we can change the narrative to work for us instead of against us. Setbacks do happen. But we can turn them into opportunities.