Several times a year I have the privilege and joy of presenting workshops and retreats on the “Science of Happiness”. I cover many topics in these workshops and one of the most effective stress reducing concepts we explore is learning how to deal with the stresses, strains and multi-dimensions of your life with curiosity instead of drama, trauma or disrespect of self.
Initially, to change unwanted or stressful behavior you must recognize what it is that pulls you out of your center. Once you have established what your specific triggers are you can begin to change the thought patterns that keep you stuck in these destructive behaviors. Unfortunately, all too often we have little patience with ourselves getting frustrated and defeated before the behavior and its ramifications are fully understood. How many times have you said to yourself something to the effect of, “I can’t believe I’m doing this again! I’m never going to get this right. I’m such a …….”. I find one of the most helpful tools in unraveling your behavior is learning to come from a place of curiosity by asking yourself the simple question, “Isn’t it interesting?” This keeps you out of the self-judgment loop and in a place of curiosity so you can understand your issue and make concrete changes in your behavior without the need to judge or defeat yourself.
Let me give you an example of one of the ways this had played out in my own life. I am for the most part a relatively calm and easygoing person. It generally takes a lot to “ruffle my feathers”. That is, except when I was driving. For a while, I would get in the car and with the least bit of provocation I would find myself engaged in some mild form of lunacy. I would get angry with the person in front of me for not putting on their blinker. Irritated when someone was going to slow. (The speed limit!). Annoyed when someone waited forever to turn left. (When they could have gone five times) Angry if someone pulled out in front of me. (Especially if they went slow) Then on top of it all I would feel bad and berate myself for acting and feeling that way. Utilizing this concept and tool that I know works well, I pondered the question, “Isn’t it interesting” that for the majority of my life I am a very tolerant and patient person but I get in the car and I am more like an impatient lunatic? I wonder what it is that creates that behavior? So, I began to do what I call “taking a backseat to myself” and just observing with curiosity all the intricacies that created the stress of driving. The first interesting observation I made was that I rarely had this response on the weekends. Then, I noticed I was almost always on my way to somewhere when this lunacy occurred. Rushing back to the office after lunch, rushing to pick up my daughter on time, rushing to get to an appointment etc. but rarely on my way home. Interestingly, I noticed I always seem to have this behavior when I was trying to pack far too much into the unrealistic time that I had allotted. I found it was actually NOT true that it takes 10 minutes to get from Buckhead to Decatur, which is what I had allowed for. It became very clear that my stress and “Lunacy “ were clearly self-induced. I realized that my stress was totally created by an unrealistic management of my time.
This was the good news because I was the one creating it and I was the one capable of changing it. So, as I began to tell myself the truth about how much time something was realistically going to take and began to allow for adequate time, something magical began to happen. Not only was I much less stressed, I actually got more done! By allowing myself to spend more time in the present and less in the future, which is what all that anxiety is, I found I was more organized, had more time to create and got a whole lot more accomplished. As I began to be more realistic in my time management, my stress came way down, I was calmer whenever I got to my destinations and definitely had a much more enjoyable time getting there. All of this changed occurred by simply asking the question, “Isn’t interesting?” following the thread, unraveling the issue, not judging what I observed and making a few changes. What is it that is interesting in your life that you want to change?