The wisdom to know the difference.
My 12 week challenge - Day 2
A lot of us want to change our behaviour to be more useful and raise the quality of our life, but after we decide and we set out on our change journey, sometimes something strange happens, and the change becomes very difficult to actually execute.
And even more than this, sometimes we actually start our new behaviour, all is starting well, then something unexpected happens, put us off track and at this point our brain and body experiences a horrible reaction to it all.
So, this is what happened to me today.
After planning my day in the office, circumstances changed and so I needed to change my plans and travel on an unplanned train journey to London.
I didn’t have a lot of time to catch the train and so I hastily packed my bag, filled up my water bottle, made sure my phone was fully charged and off I went.
I arrive at my seat in the train. Bag by my side. I begin to lay everything I need to work out on the table. I am so pleased that I have everything ready. Most importantly I have my journal ready that I had decided would be a daily journal of my 12-week daily challenge. I will be using it to plan my live streams and record my own ideas and reflections on the process. This is a new thing for me and is an exercise in changing behaviour for me.
And then it happens!
I don't have a pen!
I rummage through my bag – definitely no pen. I ask someone sitting close to me – he doesn’t have a pen.
My mind starts going crazy.
I feel the anger brewing. I start hating myself. I start thinking how stupid I am. I want to do my journal! I really want to do this change! I cannot write my journal now because I don't have a pen, and everything is going crazy.
My mind and body start having an abreaction and all because of a pen!! (or rather a lack of one)
So, what does one do in a situation like this? When you've planned to do something and then it starts to go all wrong?
We get this feeling of disappointment.
We feel the frustration rushing in and our thoughts start racing with all sorts of self-judgement and self-abuse.
And then it comes – my inner 3-year-old want to chuck their toys out of the sandbox and declare – “I am not playing anymore!”
Well today's book that I want to bring in for guidance is “The Wisdom to Know The Difference by Kelly Wilson, who is one of the originators of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
It opens up with that famous serenity prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept things. I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
And it's so poignant because sometimes we just can't control things and we don’t always “know the difference” And that can put us off track of the journey we have chosen to take.
One of the many skills that Kelly teaches us in his book is to take “six deliberate breaths”
When we do this, it gives our brain that space to regroup from the “emotional hijack” and allow us to make a choice how we're going to choose to respond.
Our life is made up of choices. And these choices accumulate – every choice counts.
If we find ourselves making choices that are not useful or not working out for us then we can chose to change our behaviour by making different choices and then observing the consequences of our new behaviour.
Our whole body works with this mechanism – positive feedback - it’s going well let’s continue and negative feedback – it’s not useful anymore let’s change it.
It’s not wrong! It is a clever feedback information system. That’s our biology!
So, when we make choices, there is a behaviour that follows and then there are consequences to our behaviour and these consequences lead to more choices and so on.
Best be mindful then of what choices we make. And what feedback we receive by observing the consequences.
I chose, on the train today, to put everything down, take my six breathes and then decided to choose how I wanted to respond to the situation.
I chose to read what I wanted to prepare and to use my phone to write my notes digitally until I arrived in London where I would acquire a pen and transfer my notes to my written journal.
I stayed on track, arrived safely and well, and chose to behave in the service of my values.