“Yeah, but how?!” is a question I have heard most frequently when discussing mindset change. Truly, it’s like a dance. If you need to move in a different direction, you pivot.
Awarenesses + Efficient and Effective Choice + Action = Success.
Yes, it is truly that simple. I could stop the post here, though I sense there’s still a lingering, “Yeah, but how?!” Let me start with a personal story to use as our foundation.
When I was four, my grandmother died. She’d been a huge part of my upbringing until then. Her death meant I spent more time alone as her widowed husband was grieving, my father worked during the day, and my mom’s existing depression deepened. I craved the attention I was suddenly missing.
My parents had a king size bed with a firm mattress. To me, it was like a trampoline. I wanted to play with them but they truly had little left to give. (I get that now). When they were both home and “relaxing” by zoning out to the TV, I would go jump on their bed until they came into their room to stop me. I knew I’d get in trouble. I also knew they’d pay attention to me. For me, the payoff (attention) outweighed the risk (punishment).
This behavior continued in school. Being an only child to emotionally and often physically unavailable parents in a neighborhood with few other kids, I would expel my energy at school talking nonstop. I knew there were rules and I knew I’d get in trouble, but those moments of peer connection were just too precious. The payoff (connection and attention) outweighed the risk (swats and demerits).
I currently know several people who use illness (mental and physical) as a means to gaining the attention they desire. Being sick is worth the hassle to get the attention. I have a friend who chooses self-deprecation as a way of receiving the validation of worthiness from others that my friend is unwilling to self-provide. I know someone who uses gossip to feel powerful even though such actions erodes the trust of those around them.
We will meet our needs in any way possible with the tools we have available to us in the moment.
When a student, client or even friend says they are tired of not feeling or living they way they desire, for example excessively snacking after dinner when trying to loose weigh, I always ask, “What’s the payoff?”
After a few moments of a blank stare, they say, “There’s not a payoff.” There is ALWAYS a payoff – attention, validation, comfort, a sense of love or belonging – or we wouldn’t do it.
For example, let’s use my friend who uses self-deprecation. Their need may be around belonging and companionship. In the moment that my friend starts to belittle themselves, they can pause and notice how they are feeling in the moment, using all their senses. Perhaps there is a feeling on isolation or loneliness.
Next, an exploration of needs is necessary. My friend may need company or a willingness to enjoy their own company. Becoming aware of their needs, they can start to pivot and make better choices.
Effective and Efficient Choices
In the moment of awareness, my friend has a choice; self-deprecation and victim language or communicating needs and desires honestly. The later does require some vulnerability and runs some risk of not having their needs met. However, using the old default method certainly doesn’t enhance or strengthen their relationships.
My could call a friend and chat or extend an invitation to do something together. They could also choose to simply sit with their feelings and be willing to explore them a little deeper. They could use affirmations to start anchoring in better thought patterns.
Meeting needs in an ineffective and inefficient way may have an immediate payoff but long term it erodes relationships, deteriorates trust, and ultimately keeps a person stuck in a self-sabotaging reinforcement loop.
Consider your own behaviors and actions that are not effectively or efficiently meeting your needs. Try this simple method of a pivot:
- observation of thought/behavior
- exploration of need
- action (meeting the need more effectively and efficiently)
- celebrate a better payoff!
This isn’t a one-and-done exercise. It is something you have to practice over and over, returning to when you slip back into the old default patterns. With commitment and intentional work, your relationships will benefit greatly.