I have a toddler, and if you’ve ever been with a toddler you’ll recall that they can be great observers and even better mimics. Great, if you are modeling behavior you want them to mimic; not so great if you are having an off day and are flying off the handle, stifling f-bombs as you go.
The other day, we were all having an off day: there was a lot of activity in and around the house, and my dogs were barking for what seemed like the entire day. One dog barking is bad enough, but with two, they just seem to egg each other on – it becomes a contest of who can bark the loudest, the longest, and in the most creative rhythm.
I, after about the fifth round of barking for the morning, was not handling it well: I was yelling and using a tone of voice that I don’t prefer. Unfortunately, I didn’t really notice my yelling or my tone in the moment – I was really just acting out of frustration and desperation for some quiet.
Those actions, however, were mirrored later in the day when my little one decided that she too was going to reprimand the dogs for barking, yet again.
Suddenly during an afternoon bark fest, I heard this shrill shriek from her – she was yelling at them and trying to corner the 60 pound hound dog to make him stop barking.
Oh, this was so upsetting to me; this was not the relationship I wanted for her with her pups or any animal, and not the behavior I wanted her to adopt.
It was my fault – I was lax and slipped up.
I let my frustration get the better of me, and wouldn’t you know she “called” me on it. I wasn’t “walking my talk” – at least not that day. And, while yes, we all have off-days and make mistakes, if I am truly honest with myself, I haven’t been walking my talk consistently for a while now.
I realized that a lot of the time my actions, thoughts, and words are not reflecting how and who I want to be and supporting the kind of impact I want to have in this world. What a scary and disappointing revelation!
And this was not only with the dogs, but with my family, and with my meditation practice, my running, my thoughts, even the people in the bank…you get the gist. If I really want to call myself a runner, I need to be running regularly. Likewise, if I really want to see myself as a meditator, I need to meditate. If I want to truly be the patient, kind, respectful person I hold in such high esteem, I need to practice those qualities. It’s all practice of one kind or another.
My daughter called me on my behavior with the dogs, and it has really reminded me to look more closely and honestly at how I am truly being and acting in my relationships and in my world, rather than how I think I am or want to be. She’s forcing me to pay more and more attention every day, and I’m hoping this will help me be that much more conscious of my actions in the moment and behave more in line with how I’d like to be.
Now many of you don’t have a toddler around to help keep you in check, but…
Here are a few things you can put into practice to make sure you are living in line with what you truly value.
- Simply recognize and acknowledge whatever situation you happen to be in – particularly if it’s a challenging situation.
- Get really specific about who and how you want to be in this world (e.g: I want to be good, kind, compassionate; someone who contributes to society; a supportive and loyal friend; a fearless woman…)
- Pick one of those things and pay attention to your actions for one week with regard to that identifier and honestly see are you really as patient as you’d like to be, are you really being a loyal friend. This is not about judging or berating ourselves, but rather about shining a light on what we need to work on to be the best and most honest version of ourselves.
- And most of all, remember it’s a practice, and to keep practicing – it’s too important not to.