“How do I stop reacting to triggers?”. That’s a question I get asked a lot.
It all starts from a place of choices.
Even when it feels like we have no choices, that life has made the choices for us, there are always choices and options. The choices may not be concrete all the time or even obvious.
Check Your Attitude
It can begin with your choice of attitude. I could look at it like my life is over and make the choice to be/feel defeated.
Accept that the situation sucks, but the choice to have a positive attitude is how you can control your reactions.
How do we get there? Being positive in the face of life’s unpleasant surprises?
Your life is made up of many components. Even when one part is burning down to the ground there are always other things that stay in tack.
No so much of a positive attitude, it is about making the choices that will help you propel forward in order to move on, to make a change, to re-create.
In the article, I Married A Dick (J.D. Kitchener, 2010) the life that she thought she knew, husband, home, two kids came to an end when her husband of seven years announces that he has met the woman of his dreams that it is not her. After a drawn-out, grueling divorce, she walked away with no money and sole custody of her children. She sold what was left of their belongings, purchased plane tickets and relocated to another city. She found work, a place to live, and daycare.
The author made a choice. She chose to forge ahead. She used the bitterness that she felt about ex-husband and his new wife to propel her forward. So what is the secret, what are the steps, how do we get to this place of moving past and moving forward? How do we see the choices in front of us, how do we know if we are making the right one?
The Million Dollar Question
We start by feeling. That is the first step. Whatever you need to feel, let it out. Beginning to process whatever feelings you have. This can be accomplished with writing, talking with friends and family and/or sharing with a coach or a counselor.
Step number two. Create a vision for what you want your life to look like. Who do you want to be, what do you want to be doing, where are you living. This is a list of what you do want in your life as opposed to sentences that begin with “I don’t want…” Sometimes it is much easier to know what we do not want in our lives. Keep this list where you can see it. This can be a great reminder of hope, that through the “unpleasant surprise” there is another path waiting for you.
Step number three. Begin to make decisions that will get you and keep you on that path. The author of the article at some point decided that moving away with her kids was the right choice for her. A good way to map out any decision that needs to be made is to take a piece of paper and divide it in half. On the top of one half write down choice one and on the other half write choice two (if there are more, create as many columns as you need). Under each choice begin to write the pros and cons for each. With every choice we make it leads to something else, could be positive or could be negative. This process will assist you in figuring out which is the best direction to take.
Ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Will this choice get me to where I want to be
- Is this immediate gratification (reactive) or will it help me (proactive)
- Will I be able to stand behind this choice regardless of the outcome?
If the choice has other people involved, you may want to consider if you care what their reaction will be.
Is that a factor to you?
If it is, write down the worst possible reaction and then the best possible one. It is going to be either or somewhere in the middle of that.
We want to make choices with purpose.
Step number four. Repeat as necessary.
Remember that life will always have unpleasant surprises.
In a moment things can change in our lives.
Knowing how to take care of ourselves and our lives in those moments can make things a little easier.