THE R FACTOR — ARE YOU TAKING YOUR PART?
Have you noticed that 50% of the time your life is not going the way you wish it would? Today it is working at 60% but last week it felt like only 40%. Experts say it averages out that we have a 50/50 balance of stuff going well and stuff not going so well. The question is, how do you behave when stuff is not going so well?
An event out of our control generates a belief
Ok, certain things that happen are tough to deal with, I know. We experience events we have never managed before (like a Pandemic) and situations that remind us of the past (like a car accident). There are life events we look forward to, such as the birth of a child, and those we dread such as a health issue or extreme weather event.
When we experience an event that is out of our control, our beliefs come to the surface. There are societal beliefs and beliefs based on what our parents and other adults taught us when we were young. Many of our beliefs lie under the surface, out of our conscious awareness. When we experience an emotional reaction to an event it comes from that unconscious belief. That’s what many people refer to as being triggered.
A belief can cause an emotional reaction
We often have an emotional reaction based on beliefs that have influenced us for a long time, often without our permission! Something happens and our emotions seem to jump out before we can stop them. These emotional reactions can harm our relationships or hold us back from having the life we want.
Here is an example. Ellen received a past-due notice from your bank. Before she could stop herself, she shoved the letter in her partner’s face and, in an angry voice, asked “what in the world were you thinking? Why didn’t you pay this on time?” Ellen was triggered.
She was triggered because of the angry voice shouting in my head “only deadbeats don’t pay their bills on time!” Before she knew it, her fear of being a deadbeat led her to lashing out at her partner.
When we react from emotion, we may not like the result
Accusing her partner before she knew the circumstances could have harmed the relationship. If her partner joined in with his own triggered reaction, a minor misunderstanding could become a major catastrophe.
The reality is that all our reactions to life’s events, whether unexpected or planned, determine what happens next. Let’s call that “our results”. Once we experience a result, we make a judgement about whether that result is “good” (or great) or “not so good” (or terrible). As time goes on and we react to other life events, our results stack up. We then decide whether our life is going well most of the time, or whether it is not going well most of the time. Thus the 50/50 life theory.
Are you taking responsibility for your part?
Regardless of which side of 50/50 we fall on during any given day, we bear a degree of responsibility for everything that happens to us. It’s so easy to blame other people for our emotional responses and to avoid taking responsibility for exploring our beliefs and how they contribute to a result we put on the “not going well” side.
When we recklessly blame others for our problems, we avoid seeing how taking personal responsibility might present innovative solutions. Instead of asking the question “who’s to blame,” perhaps we could ask the question “what’s my part”?
What is my part of a shared responsibility for a reaction to a particular event?
In Ellen’s case, her part of the responsibility for the heated discussion that followed, was forgetting she had given her word to trust her partner to take care of the bill paying his way. His part of the responsibility for the heated discussion was forgetting his agreement to set up automatic bill pay so all the bills would be paid on time.
When we think back on past experiences that turned out “not so good”, we can assess how taking our part of the responsibility could prepare us to do things differently. When we change the way we react, our future results change for the better.
Changing our Reaction to a Response
Changing our life from 50/50 to 60/40 may only require a slight change in perspective. Can you change a reaction to an event to a response, and would that make the difference? Think of it this way. A reaction is a behavior that erupts out of an emotion, a response is a choice you make to influence the result. When you respond to an event, you choose what result you want and take the emotional heat out of the equation.
How can I change my reaction if it’s based on an unconscious belief? The good news is that our beliefs can be changed. What is a belief? Beliefs are thoughts we have over and over and have decided are true. Sometimes our beliefs are based on old information and are no longer “true” in the sense that they don’t support who we are and what we are creating in our life right now.
If the belief is “only deadbeats don’t pay their bills on-time”, you can question whether that belief is supporting what you want or not. If you want a harmonious relationship with your partner, the supportive belief might be “this letter makes me feel uncomfortable, but I’m a responsible person and so is my partner. I trust him/her to take care of this.”
Learning to respond instead of reacting requires that you know what you want. Once you know the result you want, ask yourself “what thought do I need to think in order to get what I want?”
If you consider what you want before you choose your response, you will notice the difference right away. You will move the needle from 50/50 to 55/45 and beyond. When you respond instead of reacting, you are “taking your part.” When you respond, you have more control over the quality of your life.
There is more to incorporating taking your part and having more than 50% of your life go well. Next week I will share about what to do in the instant between the event and your reaction. That nano-second is where the difference is made. Stay with me and your life will get better, in the way you are hoping.
In the meantime, as you experience those inevitable unexpected events, I invite you to consciously ask yourself…
Are you taking your part?