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Change is HARD. It is a process that takes time.
Whether you are wanting to change a habit, attitude or behavior change takes four things:
- Different Action
Let’s say you want to let go of your tendency to control how your husband helps around the house. You desperately need some help, but you have noticed that when he does help you tend to get frustrated with how and what he did wrong rather than just the fact that he helped (even though it isn’t EXACTLY how you would have done it). What ends up being a nice act on your husbands part to help you, inevitably ends up being an argument.
So first you need to get really clear and specific on what you want to change. For this example the goal is to graciously accept your husband’s help without being critical about every little thing he does.
We start with step 1: building awareness. For the sake of our example, let’s say it is Sunday night and your husband offers to help and you agree. While you finish up the laundry and packing lunches for the next day, he gives the kids a bath but forgets to brush their teeth, he loads the dishwasher and puts everything in wrong and when you walk into the kitchen you realize he failed to sweep the floor and it is a mess. You immediately start fuming and before you know it you are in a full out battle over the kitchen. In fact, you aren’t aware that things went south until the next morning. Side note: eventually as you build awareness, the time between things going south and your awareness of them will shrink and shrink, until you are aware things are going south AS they are going south.
But for now it is the morning after and you look back and think, “Ugh, I did it again”. So you put Steps 2, 3 and 4 into place. Step 2 Self Acceptance is one of the most important parts of real change. Real change won’t occur if you are ‘white knuckling’ it, beating yourself up or doing it for the sake of someone else. You have to want the change and you have to love yourself through the change process. So in practicing self-acceptance: You DO NOT spin off on what a terrible, bitter person you are or how unhelpful your husband is. Instead you Pause. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is a process you are learning and that takes time. Then come back and practice Step 3: Curiosity. You start asking yourself WHY it went so south AND what action you can take to do it differently next time (Step 4).
Yes, I know a big part of you is screaming that it went south because he did it wrong!! But try to dig a little deeper and begin to entertain the idea that it MIGHT be something else. What else is there? For each question and ‘yes’ answer you come up with develop an action step you can take next time to create some change.
Question: Could your tone have been more appreciative and less critical?
Action: If yes, think about where your tone when south, why did you get so critical? Were you tired? Frustrated already? Or were you mirroring your husband tone? If yes, why? And how can you prevent that in the future.
Question: Could it be that he hasn’t done it enough to know your preferences, so with some communication he could learn better?
Action: If yes, set aside time with him to do some quick light-hearted ‘trainings’ on how you like things done–Make sure it is a time when you are both relaxed and open to having a fluid conversation. Be prepared that he still might not do it exactly the way you want it done.
Question: Is it that you have told him 1000 times and he just doesn’t listen?
Action: If yes, then it is time to have a conversation with him about to help problem solve the issue. There is a bigger problem at play here and you guys need to get to the root of it.
Question: Is it possible that you two just have different standards and you could learn a little bit about relaxing your standards, yes the kids need to brush their teeth, but does the dishwasher really have a RIGHT way of being loaded?
Action: If yes, get clear on what you are willing to let go of and what is a MUST HAVE for you and proceed from there.
So fast forward to the next Sunday, and your husband is once again offering to help. This time you notice as you are talking to him that your voice is short and you are being critical. You stop. Breathe. Smile to yourself and get curious and take a different action. Maybe you ask your husband to take a break. Maybe you share that you are struggling with being less critical and want to show up a different way of doing it. Maybe you admit you are tired and it would be easier to do it yourself for now, but tomorrow night you are doing a mini training.
At the end of the night, your husband helped and there was no fighting. Time to do a CELEBRATION! That, my friend is change. Over time you will catch yourself in the moment getting frustrated with him and you will take a different action well before you have a chance to be overly critical. Sunday nights (hopefully every night of the week) will be full of help from your husband and a lot less fights.
No matter what behavior or thought you are trying to change I guarantee when you implement awareness, self-acceptance, curiosity and chose a different action, over time change occurs.
I would love to hear from you. Where do you struggle with change? What part in these 4 steps is the hardest for you? What tips do you have from your own life?