Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Noticing is the First Step

I lived in my house for six years before I found the most efficient way to get to the grocery store. For six years, at least once a week, sometimes even twice a week, I drove to the grocery store in the most inefficient way. Once I realized there was a better way to go (and you can bet I went a few ways which were also not as efficient before I found the best way), it took me awhile before that was the way I was consistently driving to and from the grocery store. Occasionally I would catch myself driving the less efficient way, and feel frustrated. Sometimes I would catch myself in the middle of driving that way, and go a slightly more efficient way but still not the best way. Even now, after driving the better way for over a year, I still catch myself on autopilot going the way I used to go.

Sometimes as parents we find ourselves doing things that aren't particularly efficient. I'm loathe to tell anyone they're doing something the wrong way (not only because there are a lot of other people out there eager to). I do, however, think that the way some parents do things is inefficient. Most likely we'll all get to the same place, in (mostly) one piece. But if you knew a better way to go, a way that got you there faster and with less frustration, wouldn't you want to go that way?

I'm not promising a walk through the park. Even when driving the most efficient way, sometimes, like during a snowstorm, it is not going to be fun driving to the grocery store. Sometimes there's construction, or a really, really slow car in front of you. A lot of things are out of our control. Still, I'm happy I found the more efficient way to drive to the store and I wouldn't go back to driving the other way just because once in awhile I get caught behind the garbage truck.

Sometimes, we are aware there is a more efficient way to go, but we don't know how to do it. Our autopilot comes on and before we know it, we're going down the least efficient route. After you get home and remember you could have gone a different way, you become even more frustrated with yourself. Here is where you need to remember: noticing is the first step. Instead of berating yourself for going the wrong way, be happy that not only do you know that there is a better way, but that you were able to realize that you didn't go that way. Not everyone has that awareness.


Eventually, you will be able to notice that you are headed down the inefficient path in the middle of your drive. You can be frustrated and continue that way, or, you can try to correct your course and see if you can get on the more efficient path. Either way, you're noticing a little earlier and that should be celebrated. If you keep lauding yourself just for noticing, eventually you'll be catching yourself before you head on the inefficient path. You will have achieved your goal of changing the path you're on.

If you've been on the inefficient path for a long time, it will not be easy to change your way, but it can be done. Just remember: noticing is the first step. Meet yourself with self-compassion. You can do it.

For Further Thought:

1) What is it that you would like to do more efficiently as a parent?
2) In what ways can you support your noticing?
3) When in the past have you successfully changed a habit?

For Further Reading:

Zen Pencils: Ira Glass and the Gap

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