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  • Do Less, Do Different

    I’m what I describe as a stealth competitor. I really don’t care about competition. I don’t seek it out for fun or have a trophy room or childhood scrapbook filled with ribbons from Field Day or science fairs. My Love language is Acts of Service so I’m normally doing for others rather than for myself.

    But once in awhile, when the stars align and the wind blows just right, the energy of the universe puts a moment in front of me and my amygdala catches on fire. That’s the emotional center of the brain. It moves us into fight, flight, freeze to keep us safe in the face of danger. When the universe puts a moment in front of me that feels unsafe in some way, that catches my attention. And when it’s a moment of feeling that the universe is giving me a kick in the seat of my pants and double dog daring me to lean into the challenge, I usually respond with “oh, yeah- I’m in!”

    For example, I once signed up and ran an entire season of races just for the free pair of running shoes that came with the entry fee. Kick in the seat of the pants- FREE running shoes???  I’m in!

    I also ran a marathon just because the store sponsoring the event said the age group prize was fabulous, I was in contention to win, and they wouldn’t reveal the prize until it was awarded to the winner. That did the trick- I HAD to know what the prize was. The prize was a set of beer glasses with the store’s logo on them. I don’t drink beer, but had a fabulous time ripping into the wrapping paper and opening the box. Universe’s double dog dare- finish the race AND win to get the prize. Oh, yeah- definitely in!

    These were big steps for me. Literally. I calculated the marathon to be about 69,000 strides for me to cross the finish line. I had never done anything like this before. This was daunting and inspired more doubt than confidence.  Being scared to step outside of the box we keep ourselves in is natural. It’s safer to stay in the box. We know what emotions and people and life events are in that box. The amygdala protects us by lighting up and focusing our attention on what is dangerous to us in that moment and what is lingering around outside of the box.

    In the physical world that keeps us safe by hitting or throwing objects, running away, or being so scared we’re unable to move.

    In our relationships it keeps us safe by fighting back with harsh words, impulsively breaking up, or shutting down when we’re on the receiving end of anger, gaslighting, or contempt from others. And because one of those behaviors worked earlier in our life, we keep doing it over and over and over again as we protect ourselves emotionally.

    Doing less, doing different is out of the box and is scary at times. Change is hard. We feel apprehensive and unsure if the effort is worth it. Doing less and doing different require intentional thought to respond on our part. Less yelling, less walking out, less shutting down and emotionally avoiding the conversation. More using different speech patterns and softer tones, leaning in with curious questions instead of running away, speaking up for what we need instead of shutting down.

    When we do less by not doubling down on using the same unhealthy communication cycle that has brought our relationship to a place filled with pain, anger, and resentment and instead do different by intentionally learning how to listen with curiosity and speak in ways so our needs can be heard we move ourselves out of the box in a way that provokes anxiety yet frees us at the same time. We’ve challenged ourselves to grow and learn about how we show up in our own lives and therefore in the lives of other people, especially our relationships. Just by accepting that challenge and trying, how we see ourselves begin to shift. We became brave, vulnerable, accepting, and safe in a new place of doing different.

    Doing less, doing different for my marathon meant I had to let go of weight training and shift into a new workout routine that included more rest days to recoup. Not easy for someone who has mastered the art of busyness.

    Doing less, doing different in relationships means letting go of responding to criticism with defensiveness, responding to anger with anger, or threatening to quit the relationship when not feeling heard.  It’s about shifting that energy into sharing an appreciation, offering an apology first, doing something nice without expecting something nice in return, saying please and thank you and you’re welcome.

    The challenge of running a marathon began with one step. The challenge of fostering love and joy in a relationship begins with a small gesture of warmth and kindness.

    Challenge yourself to do less of what is not working in your life and in your relationships and do something different today. I double dog dare you.

    Embrace your best self! Anne