Question – We have read many books on how to save our marriage and it seems like nothing sticks. We still have huge arguments and then it’s back to the sulking and avoiding and the loneliness. Why do all of these things not work for us? They sound good and still don’t work. We both have the intention to improve at one time or another. Why won’t these skill sets work?
Answer – The best answer for that is that we are missing the one principle that governs them all – our ability to persevere, or be consistent. It boils down to the moment conflict happens – do we choose to live our principles or react? When life doesn’t go as we planned or someone else made a mistake that affects us, do we choose to react out of fear, anger, or pain, or do we react according to our principles? Even when someone makes us mad, or hurts us, are we consistent in living what we know is right? We get overwhelmed or even steeped in fear and believe we really don’t have the ability to do the right things. Do we feel this is just not who we are! Or is it that we don’t know of a better way? Does that better way seem not to work the first few times anyway?
There are three connected traits that play a large role in why we struggle to be consistent: being self-aware, having strong character, and having a deep desire.
Let’s take being self-aware first. Do we realize that at times we are our own worst enemy? Do we have full understanding of how our actions affect others? Do we realize that sometimes we choose to go against what we believe to be right? Being self-aware includes stepping away from our go-go daily schedule, which we often do in autopilot to get through it all. We need to be present in the activities and take control of them – no autopilot. Also, self-awareness includes our instinctual reactions – we need to pause before we react to a situation, comment, or other’s actions and we need to take control of our reaction to be in line with our principles. So instead of calling out profanities to someone who cut you off on the road, because you’re late, you can pause a moment and realize they might also be late. Eckhart Tolle stated, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
The word self-aware seems to be the latest buzz word; you hear this word a lot. Yet what do we really understand about what it means? In theory it sounds good, but how do we really practice it? Simply stated it is paying attention to what is going on around us and inside us.
In practicing self-awareness, pay special attention to:
- What you are thinking.
- What you are doing.
- How you react to what others are doing.
- What cycles in your life do you keep repeating time after time.
- What you say and how others react to it.
Eckhart Tolle explains this concept as follows:
“Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don’t judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don’t make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.”
The biggest success from being self-aware is that you can then discern if what you are thinking, feeling, and doing is in line with your principles. Are you really being who you think you are? Is this preventing you from becoming your best self? What are you doing to self-sabotage?
Barrie Davenport states, “We can’t be fully ourselves and fully alive; we can’t experience the depths of joy, intimacy, authenticity, connection, peace, and fulfillment without constantly seeking self-awareness.” I might add to this- BE HONEST with yourself!
Trait 2: Character – Our character reveals itself in hard times. We live in a world that is dictated by logical force. People often tell us “I had to do it” because they did it to me. Even in family abusive situations, they feel obligated to dole out punishment whenever there is any kind of disturbance. This is a learned perspective. Is it right? No. We can learn to have greater character. It comes to light when we are in a bad situation. It is easy to have character when things are going good and everyone is in a good mood. Our character is built in the small places in our heart and in the quiet reserves of privacy, and in times of trials and resistance. Character is when you live by your principles no matter the circumstance or the mood. It is when you decide to be morally strong. As Steven Covey stated, “We must have a private victory before we have a public victory.” What we live behind the scenes is what emerges in public. We cannot hide it.
In reality, having moral authority is what brings the most peace, love, and connections with others. Moral authority is authority built on principles, or truths – written truths or, culturally imposed – this builds greater character. Our decisions and actions can come from this perspective instead of from changeable moods. Even when we have a bad day we can choose to be moral not destructive. Is that hard? Yes. A friend told me a story about an experience he had in school. He played soccer and an opposing team member was taunting him. This opposing person called him names and egged him on as often happens in sports. But it came to a point where he was accused of being a coward. How would you feel in that situation? Maybe fight back? What could be done to make this situation into a good one? What principle do you still need to live? My friend chose to say, “If we fight it out, we may never know if we could be good friends.”
That simple response changed the outcome of this potentially hazardous situation. And they did actually become very good friends. That was the principle of “LOVE” or the principle that we view all people to be the same value. My friend chose to live his principles. That takes consistent character. Yet, sometimes we fail and we have to ask for forgiveness and try again to react according to our principles.
Sometimes we hear about great people who shine above the rest. They show great character in times of trial. Nelson Mandela is one. He is a man that chose to treat all people with respect even when they incarcerated him for 27 years for his belief that people should be free. When he was finally released, he became the President of South Africa and even invited those who incarcerated him to his inauguration.
Another example a little closer to home happened during a high school football game when one of the players was injured. The players of the opposite team stopped the game long enough to have a prayer for the injured opponent. That shows great character. Booker T. Washington stated, “Character, not circumstances, makes the man.”
Trait 3: Desire – How bad do you want it? There is a difference between wanting something and having a deep desire for something. If we generate enough emotion, or deep feeling in the right direction, we can achieve the seemingly impossible. Let’s take the Olympics for example, no one ever won a medal just by hoping they would.
What about the words of the Cheshire cat? Alice asked the cat which way she should go. He asked where do you want to be? Her comment was she didn’t know where she wanted to be. The cat then stated in that case it doesn’t really matter which road you take. Do you know what you want in your relationship? What are you willing to do to get it?
To get started with your relationship, try these steps:
- Write down what you want.
- Learn from books and experts in the field.
- Practice, practice, and practice. Be Consistent and keep practicing. If it didn’t work the first time, try again.
- Gain desire. The more you learn and practice, the more it builds desire, which in turn brings better results.
- Constantly remind yourself of the vision of what you can become!
Desire grips you with an insatiable appetite for action. It pushes you relentlessly to meet the challenges of life. It compels you to fulfillment and purpose.
Mohammad Ali stated, “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
Take these three traits: self-awareness, strong character, deep desire, and use them to help you be more consistent. Be honestly self-aware to know when you are out of character or not, then live your deepest desire.
I challenge you to spend 15 minutes a day working on your deepest desire to have better relationships. Fifteen minutes is not much time, yet it will make a world of difference.
One step at a time.