"Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As a young boy I visited a pow wow with my family. It was a fascinating experience! Filled with singing, dancing, and displays of various artifacts.
The experience wasn't all that positive, though, because of an interaction with one of the vendors.
I was particularly fascinated by the arrowheads on display and spent some time looking over everything the vendor had. After being there a while the proprietor came over to me. I thought he had perhaps perceived my fascination with the display and wanted to show me the really good stuff. I was horribly mistaken.
Instead, he demanded that I empty my pockets. He thought I was stealing his stuff! I had never before been accused of such a thing! And even though my pockets were empty and I explained I had done nothing wrong, there was no convincing him. He just kept saying: "What you're doing is wrong!"
The way we behave and interact with others is often motivated by fear, whether we're aware of it or not. Common fears we'll experience at some point may include being taken advantage of, rejection, change, loss, confrontation, criticism, and the like, and though these fears influence our behavior, they are not always based on the reality of our present moment, but rather on the narratives stewing in our mind.
This was certainly the case for the man convinced I stole from him despite evidence to the contrary, and this is also certainly the case for me anytime I'm in a store and feel like I have to overprove myself that I'm not stealing anything. It's been more than two decades since that experience, and yet the narrative still sneaks in to influence my behavior, despite having no bearing on the reality of the present moment.
A valuable practice for taking back control of your behavior is to be more aware of the factors that influence you, such as unconscious fears inspired by old narratives. Mindfully grounding yourself in the present moment can go a long way for behaving by design rather than by default.
What motivates your behavior? How might you be more mindful to stay grounded in the present?
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Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.