How We Show Up Is a Choice
What thoughts do you carry with you each day? What impact do your thoughts have on your energy?
When life does not go as we expect, we can sometimes get stuck. When this happens, what often serves us is focusing on what we can control, how we think.
Change In Plans
"I remember my wife having the realization that she would not have the productive day she is accustom to on days off. Yet, she made a quick shift to realizing that her day would be one of connection, a gift for both her and her daughter to spend some quality time together."
Yesterday, my daughter had an appointment to get her eyes checked. This appointment had been a long-time coming. Well, at least to a 6-year-old. When we made the appointment, we were told it would take 3 weeks. Now, waiting to get your eyes checked is not a big deal; however, when you are 6 years old and your eyes are straining and uncomfortable on the daily, 3 weeks can seem like a lifetime.
Over the course of the 3 weeks following, my daughter and I would count down the days and, at times, my daughter would cry and say, “It’s taking too long!” I would empathize with her, acknowledge and validate her feelings, which helped most of the time. The kicker, my daughter had to wait, there was no choice in this. We could not get an appointment any sooner.
In the days leading up to the appointment, my wife realized that the appointment was booked for late morning, whether that was her choice or what was give she could not recall. How the time was scheduled was not the issue, it was how the appointment would impact my wife’s day off. The choice that presented itself was, whether to send our daughter to school afterward or to keep her home. This may seem like a no-brainer. Take the kid to school! However, after considering that appointments may not be on time, and if glasses were needed (which they were), getting frames fitted, and having a late lunch would leave little left of the school day; considering our kids hit the bus at 7:30am and finish around 2pm.
It was agreed that our daughter would spend her day with mom. This was a welcomed gift to our little girl, as her mom can sometimes work 50 hours a week. However, her brother was not impressed that he had to go to school while his sister got to stay home with mom. It didn’t matter that he was reminded his sister had been waiting for her appointment for a long time, not to mention her discomfort.
I remember my wife having the realization that she would not have the productive day she is accustom to on days off. Yet, she made a quick shift to realizing that her day would be one of connection, a gift for both her and her daughter to spend some quality time together.
What's Your Mantra
We ensure that our children each have at least two sessions of physical exercise each week. Caleb trains in martial arts 2-3 times per week and Mila trains in martial arts 1x per week and gymnastics on Saturdays. So, on Wednesday my son and I head off to martial arts classes together while Mom and Mila focus on school work at home.
During the drive, my son continued a mantra that had been on repeat since learning that his sister had the “Day off”. He repeated how Mila got to stay home, from school and from martial arts, which was followed up with how he had to go to school that day and had to go to martial arts. As I heard him share his feelings I thought how we don’t always get to choose what happens but we get to choose how we show up. I acknowledged and validated how he felt in that moment and then I asked my son, “What level are you in right now?” He responded in a low and defeated tone, “Level 1”.
“ ...we always have control if we are able to pause and look for where that control resides. Now, we can’t control what is outside of us but we can control what is inside.”
I have taught my son the various levels of energy as a way for him to identify when he is in a certain state, in hopes that he will be able to make a conscious choice to shift, if he sees the benefit. In my coaching practice with iPEC, I learned about energy levels and immediately began teaching them to my kids. The level 1 energy is victimhood and is characterized by thoughts like “I lose” and “It’s not fair”. This is the “poor me” stage and, sometimes we can benefit from licking our wounds; however, if we spend too much time with our wounds we don’t give them time to heal. So, I wanted to help Caleb become aware of his state and then provide an opportunity for him to shift.
Tony Robbins asks so many amazing and powerful questions that can stop you in your tracks and cause you to really reflect on where you are. Once such question he asks is, “What if life was not happening to you, it was happening for you? I love this quote because the words remind me that we always have control if we are able to pause and look for where that control resides. Now, we can’t control what is outside of us but we can control what is inside.
A Simple Redefinition
Let’s take a peek at what happens when we say the words ‘have to’. First off, these words feel heavy and burdened because they come from a place of need to and obligation. When I think of this, I think of a parent telling a child that they have to clean their room and the reason given, “Because I said so,” which is no real reason at all. The reason a kid understands in this circumstance is they have to clean their room because they are being forced to.
“ The feelings that follow let’s clean your room versus let’s reorganize your room land so very different for my kids. But why?”
When I say the words ‘get to,’ what thoughts and feelings come to mind? How do these words land for you? For me, they feel so much lighter and liberating. I see what is presented to me is more of an opportunity or even a privilege. I am reminded of the times my kids have enjoyed reorganizing the book shelves in their rooms or the excitement they’ve felt when reorganizing the orientation of their bedroom furniture. The feelings that follow let’s clean your room versus let’s reorganize your room land so very different for my kids. But why? Well, I believe it is the meaning they place on the words they hear.
Seth Godin talks about employees and how choosing the filter in which one views life through can alter the experience when he says, “A simple redefinition transformed the quality of their work, and more important, the perception of their work.” One view is narrow and limiting, the have to, while get to is broader and, as a result, not forced but freeing.
John C. Maxwell states that, “Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.”
As I drove my son to his martial arts class I asked him what kind of mind he wanted to take with him to school and to martial arts? I informed him that his have to mind would make him feel like he was losing something and keep him stuck in level one energy. However, his get to mind would help him realize what he was about to receive. I gave him a few examples of what he was getting at school, opportunities to run around and play, learning and growing (my son loves reading and he loves math), and time to see his friends and have conversation on topics that they enjoy, like Plants vs. Zombies. I then switched to martial arts and reminded my son that he got to play soccer before class, play and wrestle with my assistant instructor, Max, who has become like a big brother to him, and he would continue to develop as a leader when he helps in class, and strengthen his body and his mind when he participates in his own training. I then asked him, what kind of shift would that be, from a have to mind to get to mind, and he responded, “A BIG shift.” Then I asked him, what kind of mind do you want to bring to school and to martial arts and he said, “A healthy one.”
I could see and feel the shift in him, as we drove and when we arrived for class. His energy was higher and his mind was open. His mind had shifted and so had his mantra, he was now seeing what opportunities awaited him and what he got to do. I am aware that we all need reminders when we get stuck, especially me, as we choose our attitude and how we show up and my son will be no different. And I know, as much as I remind him when he is stuck, he will look forward to the times he can return the favour.
~ Love Robert