“Don’t talk to me early in the morning! I have always been this way. This is just the way I am.”
Have you ever heard something to this effect? Perhaps these words came from your own mouth…
If you’ve said this, I can only assume that you believe it to be true…that this really is “just the way you are.”
Knowing that we can never (again, that was “NEVER”) perform beyond what we truly believe, allow me a moment to challenge what you believe.
Let’s think this through… You are telling me that in the morning, around your family, you are a bit grouchy. Or at the very least, quiet and unresponsive. Okay, I understand. Really, I do. I used to act that way myself. (Note: I did not say, “I used to BE that way.” I said, “I used to ACT that way.”)
Nowadays, I watch our boys, Austin (13) and Adam (11) act that way when they wake up. But only sometimes…
A while back, I began to understand that there is a significant difference in “how we are” versus “how we act.” We ARE tall or short. We ARE black or white or brown. But we ACT happy and grateful. Or we ACT with disrespect.
With that certainty confirmed—at least in my own mind—I immediately determined to change my own morning voice and the expression on my morning face. Soon after, I noticed the difference in how our boys acted when they were awakened on school mornings by their mom and me versus how they managed to act immediately upon wakening on mornings at the hunting camp.
And so it was that I had a little talk with the boys. It went something like this:
“Hey guys… You know how draggy you are in the mornings? Kind of grouchy?”
“Yes, sir,” they answered cautiously. Apparently, they were curious if this line of questioning would lead to the punishment that was occasionally threatened on those mornings.
“Hmm,” I said, furrowing my brow as if I was trying hard to figure something out. “But sometimes you are not grouchy or quiet. Sometimes you guys are downright perky. Sometimes you smile or laugh and you speak in a happy tone of voice—and you do so immediately—like five seconds after you wake up.”
Now, their brows furrowed. “We do?” they asked.
“Yes, you do.” I almost laughed out loud as they wandered innocently into my carefully crafted Proof Trap. In case you don’t know (and of course, you wouldn’t because I just made up the term a few seconds ago…) a Proof Trap is executed by leading someone down the path to a previously held belief where, once hooked into the story—or in the trap—reasonable proof is provided that the belief to which they hold so fast, is actually not true at all.
When a Proof Trap is triggered, a person recognizes the fact that any struggle would be fruitless. What they truly believe at that point has fundamentally changed. And because a belief has changed, what that person deems to be possible or impossible in his or her own life has now changed as well.
Back to the conversation with Austin and Adam…
“Guys…at the hunting camp, when Uncle Sandy comes into the room at 5am, turns on all the lights and booms ‘Good morning!’ you laugh and get right out of bed. A minute later, when you walk into the living room and Martis says, ‘Good morning boys!’ you smile and say ‘Good morning’ right back. Then you stand there and talk for a minute.”
The boys were quiet. They knew that what I had said was true. They were firmly inside the Proof Trap. They must have sensed what was coming, but neither uttered a word as I dropped the gate. “I’m just wondering…” I said. “Would you guys act grouchy if Uncle Sandy came to our house and woke you up one morning? When Mark Lowry spends the night with us next week, how will you act if he calls you to breakfast? How would you talk—what tone of voice would you use—if it was Aunt Glenda waking you up instead of Mom?”
They didn’t have to say a word. We all knew the answer…
You see, man is not constructed in such a manner that he is able to feel his way into consistent behavior. But we are absolutely able to behave our way into a feeling. It is a simple fact that, in every facet of our lives, we perform at a higher level when we choose a behavior instead of allowing our feelings to lead us around like a dog on a leash.
As adults, we have an unfortunate tendency to display our happiest faces in the presence of those who are merely acquaintances. Around family members—our spouses and children—we are not nearly so careful. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? If anyone receives our very best tone of voice, facial expression, and undivided attention, shouldn’t it be those whom we love the most?
So…who gets the best of you?