If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
~Vincent Van Gogh
It’s one of my favorite toys that only comes out of storage during December because it happens to be red and green. A red base with green tree trunks sticking straight up out of it with a limb going between the two trunks, with a monkey attached. The monkey, Curious George, flips up and around when you squeeze the buttons on either side of the base. He never lets go as he flips and swings sometimes wildly, depending on who is pushing the buttons. I think having it in the Christmas decorations is fitting since it is that time of year that many of us feel like we are hanging on for the ride, buttons pushed by too many things on our calendar and on our to-do lists. Curious George has a smile on his face, and no matter how many times I try to flip him, he just keeps smiling. That is how I want to be–holding on for the ride and wearing a smile, no matter how many flips and swings come along because someone else is pushing the buttons. Sometimes, I’d like to get off that ride, still wearing a smile.
Pushing the buttons on the toy triggers a reaction, and when the right people push the right buttons in us it triggers a reaction, doesn’t it? Sometimes that’s a positive, and sometimes it is not, so the key is to know how to use those buttons to work in our favor. What are your buttons? Other people push our buttons, and what they do is out of our control. Often, though, we push our own buttons and trigger headaches, overeating, anxiety, anger, or sadness. We can also create triggers that will help motivate us, inspire us, and help us reach goals.
It seems to me there are three things that must happen if we want to rise above the same old reactions:
- Pay attention to what brings on anxiety or frustration
- Choose how you will respond (not react) when those button pushing triggers occur
- Be intentional about your new actions and thinking
Parents can help children at a young age begin to recognize things that trigger them to feel angry or scared or frustrated, helping them prepare ways to better handle upsetting situations. The rest of us have to do this for ourselves, unless we have a professional who is helping to pinpoint our triggers.
Maybe your child loses control when (PAY ATTENTION) you’ve made a plan for the day but suddenly added an extra unplanned stop or excursion. Instead of telling the child they just need to get over it, (CHOOSE HOW TO RESPOND) teach them to verbalize that it is uncomfortable for them to have changes and then offer them suggestions for things they might say to themselves when upsetting situations arise. (BE INTENTIONAL) Help them practice the new response until they can do it on their own.
For me, I noticed I would get (PAY ATTENTION) a nervous and agitated feeling when certain names showed up on my phone’s caller id. It took me a long time to realize that instead of letting speaking to the person ruin my day, (CHOOSE HOW TO RESPOND) I could give myself permission not to answer the phone, letting the person leave a message. It seems so simple a choice to make, but if we’ve been programmed to think we must answer the phone when it rings, there is a great freedom that comes with allowing ourselves to make this change. (BE INTENTIONAL) I’ve finally become so accustomed to the better way I feel when I wait that it’s pretty much second nature. Likewise, you might feel obligated to respond to a combative text message, email or even a remark in person immediately. By giving yourself time to think about your response, it is not only wise, it is empowering for you to gain a little self-control.
Triggers and pushed buttons can be keys to success, not just keys to surviving crises. Brendon Burchard has made a career out of helping people turn triggers into success. He has lots of good suggestions, but my favorite is how he utilizes the cell phone alarm. He recommends people who want to be calmer and more peace-filled set an alarm to go off throughout the day reminding them to “close your eyes and take ten deep breaths.” For himself, he wants to stay energized during the day and sets an alarm to go off 50 minutes after he sits down. When the alarm sounds, he gets up, has a drink of water, walks around briefly, then gets back to work and sets the alarm again. He teaches to go from good intentions to intentions with real backbone.
How will you go from a crisis to success? How will you take the power away from button pushers in your life? Pay attention, choose how to respond, and be intentional. In no time, you will disempower that voice in your head that says you can’t paint when in fact you are painting the masterpiece of your life.
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. ~Deepak Chopra