There was a time in my life when my problems were a result of others. Not because that is true, but because that is how I perceived the circumstances of life at the time. It is so easy to blame others for whatever is going 'wrong' in our lives but is that really what's going on?
Let me back up a bit. After living in Toronto for 7 years ( a short drive to my hometown of Cambridge Ontario) I packed up my apartment and drove across the country with my best friend (Tatty) and my dog to fulfill my dream of living on the west coast.
What I did not expect was the cold hard reality of being alone. And I don't just mean physically; mentally and emotionally I was cut off from all the comforts of having friends and family close. At the end of my day which is when most of your 'processing' happens, I didn't have my friends back home to call because of the - 3 hour time difference.
This lead to spending days on end in my bubble alone where I had no choice but to start reflecting on my life and how I had been living. It was then that I realized this victim game was getting old and nothing was going to change until my perspective changed. I could blame my 'friends', my relationship at the time but really, my happiness and decisions are my responsibility. You cannot control others; how they act or react but you can control how you contribute to those situations. Are you reacting or thoughtfully responding?
Take relationships for instance - all my relationships have ended at some point. It's easy to blame them; oh I pick the wrong men, why does this keep happening and so on. But what do these men and women have in common? ME.
That's when I started to ponder and process all the actions I had taken and how they affected myself and my partner. Was I the kind, loving and understanding partner that I expected my other half to be? In short, that's a hard no.
When I started to really think about how I had behaved and treated others in life, I realized that I fell short. The only way to change that is to change how you process and react. For example, when I want to message someone that I shouldn’t in a moment of weakness, I ask myself why 5 times. By the time you get to the 5th why, you are at the root of the issue and can start to work on that emotion. Sounds easy right? Try using this method next time you reflect. It's not easy and can be painful when you uncover some cold hard truths. For me, loneliness and perpetually seeking approval from others lead me to make some choices I wish could be taken back.
But, the past is the past. It cannot be changed. This is a cold hard truth.
So what do you do to move forward?
Pause. Think through your choices thoughtfully and with intent. Learn how to master being calm no matter what life throws at you. The best thing you can do when situations start to escalate is to pause and ask yourself why you are really feeling the way you are.
Once you spend time self reflecting and considering the various factors that play into your decision making, you will learn what you love about being you and see the opportunities for improvement. We strive for progress - not perfection. You will not always respond the way you hoped but that’s growth in itself. Being aware and making others in your life aware that you need time to process before responding. This will naturally help you to be a better communicator in both your personal life and your professional one.
A quick read I recommend - Difficult Conversations the Harvard Business Review edition. This completely changed how I have conversations with both myself and others.