In my previous post, "Nurturing Emotional Development in Your Child", I briefly mentioned the idea of developing insight in our kids (and ourselves). I truly believe this is the key to success in all areas of life. It might sound a little strange, but hear me out.
Insight is the ability to reflect on our lives, with the intention if improvement: reflect & redirect, if you will. We look within, determine if we are happy with how things are going, and if we are, great! and continue doing more of that same thing. If we aren't satisfied, we make a conscious decision to change the way we do things.
Here's an example:
I've been getting frustrated more with the kids lately, because we're all locked in isolation from COVID-19. I bet you can understand why... I don't like raising my voice, but I've had to more. When I reflect on this at the end of the day, I feel awful. I decided I would change my approach, so that I could improve our days. I had to take accountability for this, which isn't always easy. And, if we're being really honest, I don't always have a perfect solution for every situation, so a lot of the time, I try 5 different strategies and see what works. I suggest this to everyone (because, hey, we have no magic ball to make predictions, and every family/kid/situation is different). So I tried doing a few things, and learned along the way. What I found most effective was just simply creating routine. Breakfast, free time (including some electronic use or crafts, whatever I have the energy for that day), outside time (buh-bye!), lunch, movie time together (so mommy can work), reading/homework time, then supper, clean up, and bed routine. Nothing too strict, no specific timings (other than meal times, I try to be close-is each day) but also room for them to choose their activities, giving them a bit of control. It took a little while for them to realize that this routine would be the same every day, and that they couldn't argue their way out of it. Now that they know what's coming next, they seem to have settled nicely into this. So have I.
So, I found something that works. But this post isn't about my routine, it's about my choice to change things when I didn't like the outcome. Insight, the ability to reflect and redirect, is based on my values and goals as a parent, and as a person.
If we don't have insight, we often get stuck in patterns that don't serve us, or those around us. We can find ourselves in yucky situations, including health habits, unhappy relationships, ruined friendships, jobs we don't love, buried under financial strain, and on and on it goes. It's not because we make bad choices, but because we don't adjust the direction of our sails when we first recognize our discontent. Perhaps, too, because we fail to set goals, or discover our true values.
A lot of "pop psychology" encourages us to think happy thoughts, and the like... but a lot of the time, it's not about that. This works for some people! Not to discredit it, at all, and if it works, that's awesome. On the other hand, it can be pretty hard to think happy thoughts when you're in a bad situation. Sometimes we have to align (or re-align) our small decisions with values and goals, and adjust the sails promptly, then we will be more likely to lead fulfilling lives.
It's true, sometimes life is just hard. We can't control every part of our lives. Sometimes we do have to accept crappy things. But if we have insight, we can cope better with crappy situations, and also set up a life that has room for toughness. It acts like a big giant fluffy cushion - you can fall and not break, you can rest and recover for a while, and you can bounce back when you're ready. Creating a life that you love makes us resilienter (I made that up, it's not a word...but you get what I mean...
I invite you to consider the next few questions, to have somewhere to start:
What are my top 3-4 values in life?
What are my top 3-4 priorities in life?
What are 3 (realistic, achievable) goals for my life at the moment?
What areas of my life are not going as I had hoped?
Can I control them at all?
If yes, what can I do to slowly change the direction?
What can I do today/tomorrow to start moving in that direction?
Now, take a deep breath, and recognize that you've just done the hard work. Practicing insight is NOT the easiest. Good work.
Repeat as necessary.