Have you ever done or said something that you wish you hadn’t? I think we all have. Why do we do that?
I think we could all agree that the less often we find ourselves in that situation, the better off we are in all areas of life. So I’d like to share some thoughts on being free from the tendency of doing or saying things we’d rather not, and consistently being what my friend and mentor John Spence calls our “ideal me”.
A major obstacle to being our ideal me is not really knowing exactly who our ideal me is. I suggest you really think about who is your ideal me, and then write it down.
What type of qualities do you most aspire to have? How does the ideal you treat others on a regular basis? How does the ideal you respond to intense situations, like when someone is treating you unfairly, unkindly, aggressively, or in another way that could give rise to difficult emotions like anger or fear?
Write these down in the present tense. For example, “I am kind. I respond to annoying people with patience and kindness. Etc. “
Once you’ve written a clear, brief description of your ideal me, I suggest that each morning, at some point before getting into the flow of the day, you read out loud your description of your ideal you, so that it becomes firmly planted in your subconscious mind.
Although these first two steps are very important, they will be of little value if we haven’t developed a high level of self-awareness. When difficult emotions or conditioned, habitual reactions arise, we will find that we forget all about being our ideal me once we get caught by those habitual reactions.
Thus, having a solid daily practice of mindfulness is essential for consistently being the person we want to be, which means being a person of integrity.
The stronger our practice of mindfulness, the easier it is to see our habitual reactions arise internally and have some space around them. As long as there is some space between our awareness and whatever thoughts or emotions are present, we are able respond in a way that is in accord with our aspirations. We can consistently be the person we aspire to be.
A particularly helpful practice for consistently being who we aspire to be is below (it is much more effective if we already have a strong daily practice of mindfulness).
Whenever you notice a thought pattern or emotion that is not in accord with your ideal me:
- Mentally note the emotion/thought and stop interacting with the perceived cause of the reaction except to ask for a moment or excuse yourself.
- Take 1-3 consciously controlled breaths. This stops the emotive response in the body.
- Investigate the emotion with awareness. What is anger like in the body?
- Take a moment to think of how you would like to respond to the situation or person in a way that is in accordance with your ideal me.
May kindness and compassion inform all you do,