My youngest daughter, Cici, is very good at saying, "I'm sorry." If she behaves badly, she will...eventually...admit it and apologize and give hugs. She gets this from me. If I lose my temper and overreact to something (I slam doors and yell sometimes...not proud of it, but it's true), I can suck it up and apologize to whoever witnessed the bad behavior. I take responsibility for my actions...after the fact. And while the ability to sincerely apologize is an important one, I think it's also overrated. Words are easy. Changing behavior is hard.
The other day, Cici did something that upset me. It was the end of a long day and it was a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation. I can't even remember what behavior made me react, but I did.
"I'm sorry, Mommy," Cici said.
"I accept your apology, Cici, but here's the thing. You keep behaving the same way and then apologizing for it. I'm glad you're able to apologize, but saying you're sorry is easy. Changing your behavior is the hard part. But that's what I need you to work on."
Sometimes, I am so profound. As these words came out of my mouth, I had a moment of clarity. I had just spoken a truth that I needed to hear as much as my daughter did.
When I am calm, I can objectively look at my behavior and see where I went wrong and even come up with alternative ways to react. Cici is the same way. She can be calm and rational and we can come up with strategies for dealing with her very big emotions. "I can take three deep breaths," she'll say. And then when she's getting riled up and I tell her to take three deep breaths, she'll tell me to leave her alone or she'll stomp up the stairs instead. And I can totally relate to that. When I'm calm and rational, I don't want to let anger or frustration take control. I don't want to yell or cry in front of other people. But once I've crossed a certain line, I am convinced that I DO want to be mad. I get attached to my emotions and fall into a pattern of bad behaviors that go along with them.
Can you relate to this? Perhaps anger isn't your issue...perhaps it's sadness or low self-esteem or self-pity. And maybe your behavior isn't overt like mine and my daughter's...perhaps yours is a negative internal voice or an inability to motivate. Maybe you close off to those around you. Whatever the emotion and resulting behavior, what can we do to stop the cycle?
Here's a process I've been working on to break my own pattern of behavior:
If you'd like to be more accountable for making positive changes, contact me to set up a complimentary intro session. Or, if you're local, come to my informational session on Sept 5 at 6:30 at the Golden Library to learn more about life coaching and what it can do for you.