My 5-year-old announced boldly this evening: “I know alot about life.”
Me: “You do?”
5-year-old: “Yes I do”
Me: “What do you know about life?”
5-year-old: “I know that when ever you are doing something bad, you should stop…And you should love Jesus…And God”
And with that answer, I was convinced that my little boy knows more about life than I do. And he probably knows more about life than most everyone. Because when you get right down to it many people continue to do things they shouldn’t. We continue in behaviors we know are ineffective or unhealthy or just plain stupid. How many times have you promised yourself that you would not yell at your children when they irritate you? How many times have you committed to sticking to a budget? How many times have you determined in your heart that you would stop smoking, or drinking so much, or having the same old argument with your spouse or your parents. Yet…when we do something “bad”, we don’t stop!
The answer here is simple to talk about, but incredibly difficult to execute on. The idea is to become intentional about your life, rather than reactive to your situation or your environment. The psychological research tells us that when we are reactive to situations, we have a very difficult time modifying our behavior. Basically, when we move away from a particular behavior by repeating a mantra like “I am never going to get irritated and raise my voice to my spouse again”, we usually fail miserably. But when we move toward new behaviors by determining how we will respond to a particular stressor in an intentional way, we tend to actually change. “My goal is to speak respectfully when I get irritated with my spouse and to state my point of view in an assertive rather than an aggressive manner.” You see, in the second example you are being intentional in your goal and you are actually being proactive. You are moving toward something. Now don’t get me wrong, goals are hard to establish and even harder to follow through on. If you want to create a good goal to work toward, start by writing it down. The research also indicates that writing you goal down will make it more real to you and will facilitate follow through. It also helps to create mini-goals that will help you slowly shape your behavior toward the ultimate prize of achieving real and lasting change.
Of everything I could choose to say about my little boy’s philosophy of life, the most important concept is clear: LOVE IS ESSENTIAL! If you want to change something in your life, look at your motivations. What is your life all about? Are you busy taking care of #1? If so, you will not only be miserable (the surest way to be unhappy is to try really really hard to make yourself happy), but you will surely repeat the same old self-serving ineffective patterns. So when you are writing down your new goals for your life that you plan to move toward, make sure you make your main goal to love God and to love people. Maybe then you will be able to stop the madness and stress of your life. Maybe then you will be able to finally quit being consumed by jealousy or stop yelling at your kids. Maybe then you will actually stop those old behaviors and engage true, lasting change.