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I pushed a button

Who’s Pushing Your Buttons?

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: rtgregory
If someone or something pushes your buttons – what happens next?

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

— Viktor E. Frankl

Some folks, especially those closest to us, know exactly what they can do to get us to react – they know just which buttons will push us over the edge.  In situations like that, do you often snap?  If so, your autopilot just took over:

Science writer, Shankar Vedantam, author of [amazon-product text=”The Hidden Brain” type=”text”]0385525222[/amazon-product], explains: Our brains have two modes – conscious and unconscious, pilot and autopilot – and we are constantly switching back and forth between the two.  “The problem arises when we [switch] without our awareness,” Vedantam says, “and the autopilot ends up flying the plane, when we should be flying the plane.”

The autopilot mode can be useful when we’re multitasking, but it can also lead us to make unsupported snap judgments about people in the world around us…  Vedantam says it’s not a problem that the brain has an autopilot mode – as long as you are aware of when it is on.

NPR Books

If you are habitually relying on autopilot to get you through your days, how do you raise your awareness so that you can seamlessly switch back into conscious pilot as necessary?  In his post, Get Out of Autopilot Mode, personal development blogger Derek Ralston suggests:

Create an Anti-Bad-Habit Habit

Every time you feel yourself falling into a habitual negative mindset or bad habit: Focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words like “one,” “love”, “peace”, or “evolve” work well… After repetition, you will create an anti-negative-habit habit

Mentally rehearse your day without the bad habit

For 20-30 minutes each morning, go somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and in your mind, go through your day. Think of all the times throughout your day that you typically act out the bad habit or behavior. Now instead of acting that same behavior, choose an alternate, more positive behavior, and mentally rehearse that behavior…

As you apply Ralston’s suggestions, remember that keeping some autopilot in your life is a good thing – there are many daily activities that can safely and productively be mindless, at least some of the time. Success lies in knowing when and where to switch back to “pilot” mode.

Who’s Pushing Your Buttons?

I hope you’ve begun to grasp the idea that it’s YOU that’s pushing your buttons.  Other people aren’t actually pushing the buttons, they’re simply manipulating situations to get your attention and force you into choosing certain behaviors. So when you sense buttons being pushed it’s up to you to decide what actions you will take. Choose to temporarily shut down autopilot and switch to mindfulness mode:

Mindfulness is the antidote to autopilot. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental acceptance of what is. It is a purposeful awareness of what is happening in us and around us.

iAM Business Consulting

Mindfulness is Frankl’s “space between stimulus and response” where we will find “our power to choose our response…”.  In that space we have the momentary power to choose to respond instead of react to whatever button-pushing is going on.

Besides making Ralston’s “Anti-Bad-Habit Habit” a daily effort, how do you do that?  Jorge Serrano offers an interesting method for consciously choosing how to acknowledge and act when your buttons are being pushed:

Do you know the difference between response and reaction?

Many times we feel hurt by acts and words that somebody else did or said. We take them personally, and we react. Often this reaction worsens the situation and leads to an escalating spiral of verbal and even physical violence. And later, when the storm is over, we regret many things of what we said…

How do we change this pattern?  How shall we deal with these situations? We need to respond instead of reacting.  To respond means first to follow one of the [amazon-product text=”Four Agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz” type=”text”]1878424319[/amazon-product], an agreement with ourselves, that says:

Don’t take anything personally…

Whatever other people do or say stems from THEIR way of interpreting life and reality, based solely on their beliefs, which limit their perception and thereby their ability to act otherwise…

Once we accept this agreement, our focus changes completely.  We become more present and able to deal with the situation in a constructive way.  The best effect of this agreement is that we will save ourselves a lot of needless suffering. We are then empowered to connect with our heart, and from that place find a solution… the right words… the right act… according to our greater values.  We will then be able to support that person, feel more empathy, and help him/her if that is what we choose to do.

One More Thing…

Now that you have a way to manage yourself when your buttons have been pushed, there’s something more you can do, something proactive: If your world is full of people who delight in poking at your buttons, do something about that environment of yours!

You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?

— W. Clement Stone

Now that you know how to disable those pesky buttons so they won’t disable you – go for it!

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