Triggers and Defaults and Habits, oh my!

by | Sep 25, 2018

by DLCC Coach Sharon Barbour

Understanding triggers

Thoughtfully Fit offers GREAT ways to strengthen our ability to be present, respond instead of react, and treat ourselves with greater kindness.  But just like eating our vegetables, even though we know what’s good for us we will still have Un-Thoughtfully-Fit moments.

You are not alone in this! We all have triggers and habitual ways of reacting to them. You may have practiced these reactions for decades, which can make it hard to behave differently. And any kind of stress will only increase our tendency to default to old habits.

For example, I’ve been a bit stressed lately and yesterday I felt repeatedly triggered by technology problems and deadlines. I was a babbling looney tunes character (think Tazmanian Devil) whenever one or both of my teenagers needed my attention in the midst of it all. Happily, that is not my usual way with them but when I’m super stressed, yikes! I could see myself being a nut and I could surely feel it, but I  just couldn’t change it in the moment.

Overriding defaults

In the midst of the chaos, I looked away from my computer, took a fews breaths and remembered what’s truly important and then organized myself around that.  From my more “resourced state,” I could listen to my daughters, make a clear request of them and get back to work with a clearer head and heart. Whew.

Your habits, reactions and stress-induced craziness will not suddenly go away because you’ve learned a new and improved way to be in the world.  So, be sure give yourself a break! Thank yourself for even caring about any of this and being open to learn. Breathe. You are a lovely human being.

Okay, ready?

  1. Understand the habit. Believe it or not, your habits – especially the most annoying ones – are actually trying to do something positive for you.  When you were 5 and decided it wasn’t safe to “be authentic” and “speak your truth,” you may have started practicing fading out when something felt unsafe or vulnerable.  Today, that strategy can create all kinds of trouble. Still, acknowledge what is, and that even “bad” habits have been trying to serve you. AND now you can choose something else.  
  2. Center in on what you DO want.  How would you prefer to show up? How would you prefer to get that old need met? What’s truly important to you about all this? Please note that we can build new habits of being and doing at any age!  
  3. Start practicing that preferred “new way.”   Let’s say your new way is to “say what’s important” when triggered vs. disappearing into the sidelines or angrily barking your words.  What will that require of you? It will likely require you to notice the habit arising, come back to center/ground and settle a bit and then center in on what’s important and finally, say it.  (I know this sounds like too much but believe me, this can become second nature and be a very quick process. And we’re always practicing something, so why not start practicing how you really want to be? What we practice, we become.

You can practice the noticing and centering throughout the day so that muscle is there for you  when you really need it – when you are triggered. You can also practice in safe, low-risk situations.  For example, when Sue calls and says, “Hey, wanna go to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner?!” and you feel a ‘no!’ but you sense the habit of saying “Sure, whatever you want” arising, you can take a breath. Note that you don’t want to eat at Chucky E. Cheese AND that you DO want to go out with Sue.  Then say something like “Thanks for the invitation, I’d love to eat out with you. I’m not in a Chuck E. mood though. I’d like to eat at X,would that work for you?”

I’d love to help you get started

I’d love to hear how this goes for you.  If you’d like to learn a centering practice, contact me and I’ll teach it to you – no charge!  I love passing along ways to live with more presence and resilience at work and home and to help cultivate kindness and aliveness.  Here’s to you and to fun with experimenting with Un-Thoughtfully-Fit moments!

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