Act Your Way Out Of a Feeling
One of the things we talk about my Dare2Dad group workshops is that we only have 168 hours in a week. Nobody gets more time, nobody gets less. We all have the same. Therefore, it is important that we are intentional with our time and our attention. Whatever it is that we give our attention to, grows. Whenever I start focusing on something, it seems like that very thing grows along with my inner voice. That little voice that may start to assume, react and create stories that are far from reality. If we could truly understand how powerful our minds are, we would never feed it another negative thought, ever again.
My favorite motto has become: We don’t own our first feeling, but we do own our first action.
Here’s an example – this is usually how it begins for me…
Let’s say I have this great idea to buzz out to Vegas! Hang in a pool cabana, bet some games in the sports book, have a great dinner and play some Blackjack. Immediately, I start having a conversation in my head that my wife Lisa will say, “Who’s going to watch the kids? Or are we already committed to taking them there?”
And then I answer her back – in my head! “Oh really, we can’t figure this out? Someone else can’t drive them to practice?”
And it goes on and on… inside my head.
Next thing you know, I start to feel angry. I am actually mad. I drive home, mumbling to myself, how Lisa never wants to do anything. I walk in the door and Lisa asks, “Hey, how was your day?” and I slam past her and say something like, “Ugh. Fine. But YOU never want to do ANYTHING.” Understandably, she is floored because she wasn’t part of the conversation in my head. But that feeling I was having, well, that was completely real.
Here is what I have learned. First and foremost, I need to honor that emotion – because it was real. But I can, and should, act my way out of that feeling. I don’t have to act upon it. I’ve started to do something called, “Opposite Action to Emotion”. And it works! If I go down this type of rabbit hole, I can act my way out of the feeling by doing the exact opposite. If I feel anger towards my wife, I find gratitude in her. Or if I feel ashamed about something and want to hide, I just blurt it out and own it.
If I have fear, I force myself to face it. And it actually changes the way I feel.
Remember, I talk to kids, athletes, parents, entrepreneurs, leaders, etc.. about this all the time. And I know it is so easy to say, but really hard to do. What I realized, is that it is hard only if you don’t take the time, in that moment, to honor your feelings.
I’ve started to do something called, ‘Opposite Action to Emotion’. And it works!
The other day, Lisa and I were in a little spat. Nothing huge, but again, I got angry. Coincidentally, I had just finished a workshop where I told the 10 participants that the next time they were angry, to make a grateful list about whomever they were angry at… and I bet it would change their emotion. So here I was, upset, and I knew I had to use opposite action to emotion. So I started to think about what I was grateful for Lisa for. But I kept coming back to, “No! I was right… I want my way… I don’t want to make a grateful list… I want her to tell me she’s sorry and that I am right!”
I sat there in my car… and I stewed… and I stewed… and each time I tried to redirect to gratitude, I just came back to anger. And so I stayed angry. For about 15 more minutes. And it was good, and it felt right, to honor my feelings. But then when I got home, I knew I owned my first action. So there in the driveway, I thought: “I am grateful for Lisa because she is always taking care of the house. I am grateful for Lisa because she is so loving towards our kids. And I am grateful for Lisa because she loves me unconditionally.”
And then it happened: I was no longer angry. I felt my feelings and I owned my actions. And it was tough. But by both honoring my feelings, and introducing opposite action to emotion – I was able to just, let it go.
Things like this take time – they take practice. How we’ve behaved and reacted for 40-plus years doesn’t change overnight. But you can start to improve daily. Be mindful of your feelings and how that affects your first action.
How do you deal with your emotions or the voices in your head that may assume the worst?
D.J. Rezac is a dad of five (including two sets of twins!), keynote speaker, parenting author and blogger and president of Dare2Dad, whose forums provide the motivation and tools dads need to win at home.