Ever have an opportunity to correct a habit that’s getting in the way of your happiness but for some reason just don’t do it—again? Let me tell you about the habit I’ve been battling for the last three or four decades.
Many of you know that I’m an excitable person. I’m enthusiastic and energetic, and I really, really, really like to be…right! You don’t spend 40-plus years in motorsports without developing a certain flair for being dominant. Second place sucks.
So I have a habit (or so I’m told) of conversing in a way that sometimes overpowers my fellow conversationalists. You can begin to tell me about your issue, and before you’ve even laid out the basics, my little brain is chugging through a series of solutions (while I don’t listen to the rest of your details), and I’m blurting out a solution long before you’ve even clarified the issue.
My wife will tell you this really pisses her off!
In the long run, I don’t want my wife upset with me, so for 30 years I’ve been “working” on this trait.
Of course, it’s not my fault. According to my DISC profile, I’m a high “D” or dominant, task oriented, and an extrovert. So I want to be known as clever and brilliant, and I want to be known as that now!
Know what? My wife doesn’t care about my excuse. Nor do the prospective customers who’ve passed on my proposals or the clients who’ve called me on this habit (some, thank goodness, who love me enough to keep me around).
I would definitely be happier if I toned this trait down. But where do I start?
Changing a habit can only happen now
In his landmark book How to Run Your Own Life, my mentor Jut Meininger’s Knower/Judger Earth Person (you really have to read this book) asked the same thing.
Meininger’s Learner/Researcher Martian, the voice with no judgment or preconceived solutions, suggests to Earth Person that the real question isn’t where to begin, it’s when to begin.
We arrive at choice points many times a day—sometimes many times an hour—where we can do what we’ve always done (yielding the same results) or do something different. When will we do something different? Now? Or not now?
For most of us the answer is and continues to be “not now.” When we answer this way multiple times in succession, this translates to “never.” And we’re stuck.
Perhaps you recognize that there are times when you operate in a very aware, very present mode and you catch yourself before shoving your foot in your mouth. Congratulations. A “now” moment.
But layer a dose of stress on the situation and the likelihood of doing what we’ve always done skyrockets, right?
Argument with the kids? Selling situation? Debate over Cards/Cubs, Red Sox/Yankees? You know what I mean. Awareness and presence just don’t seem to exist when we’re in the heat of battle.
So what can we do about habits that undermine our happiness?
First, recognize the times you successfully held back and did not execute on autopilot. Congratulate yourself (at least as much as you beat yourself up when you ate those French fries). Celebrate it. Revel in the feeling of accomplishment. You saved a situation from winding up like it always does because you wanted to and you were aware and present.
But recognize, too, when you are under duress. Novel situations. Arguments. New people. Warning! Warning! Warning! If you are aware of your stress, then you can be aware of your unawareness.
I can’t repeat it too often:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Every “now or not now” choice point, which most likely becomes a “now or never” choice point, is one of Viktor Frankl’s spaces. Our growth and freedom lie in choosing now.
If not now, when?