Have you ever heard the following phrase exit the lips of a peer or yourself, " I couldn't help it, it made me......." Often, we hear that phrase. A person, event or thing decides to interject its influence on us and cause an action to occur that we report we were incapable of changing. How do we transition from creatures of free will to slaves of another entity?
Some may argue that we are creatures that simply are driven by events. Stimulus and response. If you get an organism to be subjected to enough of something, it will consistently repeat an effect. I guess I should avoid chocolate from here until eternity lest my waistline suffer the effect. But, I jest and yet ask if behavior is that simple. If that were true, then explain change in any behavior. As many times as we see individuals repeat patterns of action, we also see dramatic shifts in behavior with a similar set of circumstances and environment. So, what is the difference?
I advocate a philosophy that I have adopted from toddlers. It is simply to have the tenacity of a two year old. If you have children or have been around young children, you know that telling a child that is determined to follow a certain behavior to not do so is extremely difficult if not impossible. At an early age, humans show amazing decisiveness to follow a given path. So, we see examples in our youngest that indicate strongly that we can drive our behaviors independent of influences.
So, how can we take control of our actions? First, maybe we should consider a question of inner resolve that we need to evaluate. What are our beliefs, ethics, etc. and how do these core concepts or values apply to a given situation? Too often, people simply react instead of take a breath and contemplate action. Now, some events may require a quick and immediate decision, but the majority have a less immediate time frame. So, looking inward immediately places the individual in the position of the ultimate deciding party. This introspection re-establishes or reminds us that we have control.
Next, we have to practice this pattern of introspection with consistency. We can train our introspection like any other skill. Try these three quick questions when met with an adverse or pressured question:
1. Does this matter require an immediate answer?
2. What is underlying question or decision to be made?
3. What is my view of this matter?
By asking these questions, you can turn an immediate emotional reaction into a planned and careful decision based on the needs of the event and your values. Amazingly, as you improve how proficient you are at these questions, the process becomes more responsive and faster. In other words, it becomes more capable of handling those quick decisions on the spur of the moment.
And, the best part of this process, it has no real ceiling for improvement. There is no physical limit to how far you can advance this ability. It does take some adjustment, but it can be changed. As an example, looking back at toddler selves, we obviously change our behaviors as we grow into adults. So, we can decide to evolve our reasoning and improve our control over our actions.
One last note, when you practice any skill. You will undoubtedly run into issues with how well you perform. You may struggle. That is normal. Nothing is perfect and change/improvement takes time. You may have moments where you struggle or even fail. If you try anything, failure on some level or not performing to a given standard can and may occur. But, each struggle gives insight on how to modify ourselves and improve how we control our actions. You are in control!
The M.A.D. Dad
About the author
I call myself the M.A.D. Dad. M.A.D. stands for Martial Arts Direction. I want to help others battle the forces that threaten our peace with lessons that I have been blessed to discover through my experiences in both Martial Arts and Life.