How many can relate to the following statements?
With my kids screaming in the background, I crank up my Pandora music and tune out.
I take my iPad into a quiet room and hide for an hour, avoiding the responsibilities of being a parent.
When it is time for the kids to go to bed I decide to take an extra 45 minutes to clean up the kitchen, missing the bedtime routine.
I start working on a work project in the office five minutes before it’s time to leave, meaning I get home two hours later than I should.
I sleep in while the kids are playing by themselves. Then get up 10 minutes before it’s time for gymnastics and rush everyone. I’m then the last one out of the house.
I judge my wife when she’s on the phone, yet can’t get my face out of my electronics.
I often ask my wife, “what can I do to help out?” oblivious to all the opportunities right in front of me.
As I read these scenarios of my own disengagement, I get sick to my stomach. I know I can easily turn all of it around with a simple choice of engagement, yet I stay on autopilot.
How often do we know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing but when it’s time to do it, we choose to disengage? We then look for happiness and fulfillment everywhere else except for right in front of us.
I slip into a habit of blaming others for this disengagement, but the truth is it’s a daily choice: I can complain and refuse to realize that my own happiness and engagement is 100% in my control OR I can commit to my responsibilities.
We’ve learned from Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), Tony Robbins (Unlimited Power), James Allen (As a Man Thinketh), Paolo Coelho (The Alchemist) and many others that we are what we think – our thoughts become our reality. Assuming this is true, my behavior starts with my lack of self-awareness and my belief that “I’m doing the best I can!” I go to sleep and wake up believing “I deserve more” and “I have it rough” and therefore I automatically disengage believing others should cater to me! This then becomes the daily reality and drives my actions. Wow!
If I continue to act oblivious to these scenarios and say to myself “where can I find happiness,” or “what else can I do to help,”or “I can’t help it,” or “it’s not my fault, I have no control over…”I will never find fulfillment or happiness in anything. And even worse, I will cause stress and strain to those who are impacted most by my disengagement.
So what can I do to turn it around?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) has exploded in popularity in recent years because of its simple principles. It is said that a high level of EQ can be more important than IQ. There are four main buckets of EQ: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (empathy) and relationship management (motivation). When it comes to disengagement, let’s focus in on self-awareness and self-management.
Because my habitual instinct has been to disengage I was not consciously aware of my poor behavior. Either that, or I was in denial of my control over my own behavior. It was just easy to ignore it and act as if everything was fine. When I become more aware of my disengagement, I’m more apt to regulate and change that behavior.
So, the first step is to work on self-awareness before trying to actively regulate and “fix” my bad habits.
Working on Self-Awareness:
The last three days I was on a business trip away from my family. On the plane, I took the opportunity to look at all the pictures of my family over the last two years. I saw videos of my disengagement and the faces of those impacted. I also took stock of the laughs, smiles and the joy I’ve been missing out on because of my lack of gratitude and appreciation for what’s right in front of me. I started to realize how lucky I am and how my choice to disengage interferes with my own happiness. Happiness and fulfillment were already there, I just needed to engage to embrace it.
Take time away to reflect on what is right in front of you. Watch videos, look at pictures, write it all down to capture what you should be grateful for. Even if you are at the height of disengagement, this type of mini-retreat is critical.
It’s not too late to turn it all around and to be the person you’re meant to be. I’m not going to be perfect all the sudden and I’ll definitely slip back into those behaviors occasionally. But I’m going to put those pictures and videos in my daily path so I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am. When I can change my thoughts about what I have, my behavior will follow and align with my gratitude. I will engage more often as I see the gifts and I will stop searching externally and start building internally.
This is my choice…your choice is up to you.