As we herald in 2014, many people take this time to make resolutions on how they will improve or change things in the New Year. It might be overcoming an addiction, slowing down a hectic schedule, losing weight or getting your angry behavior under control. Let’s face it, we all get stuck in routines and habits that may not be the best for us, but seem to be the easiest or most satisfying. Making a change is challenging and it can be stressful at times to get yourself out of these unhealthy routines, but it is possible. In fact, research has shown that there are a few key ingredients that we need to put in place in order to successfully alter our behavior and thinking to make long-term positive differences.
If anger has become a problem in your life and it’s making you unhappy, then now is as good a time as ever to change your ways. If you take a moment to reflect on the bigger picture, you will see that anger is generally a learned behavior. Some people possess healthy ways to deal with anger because they had strong role models who taught them how to calmly and respectfully resolve conflicts during their childhood. Others grew up in homes in which violent or aggressive behavior got others around them to back down quickly without having to compromise, or have to spend the time to work things out. These people just don’t know any other way to handle obstacles or hurtful situations.
One of the biggest reasons that individuals don’t change their own behavior to fix problems in their life is because they are busy putting the blame on everyone else. It’s my husband’s fault because he is always late, or my wife can’t keep the house in order. Sound familiar? In order to make change in your life, it’s necessary to take ownership of your responses. Reframing your thinking and the way you talk to yourself in your mind can change your behavior but you can’t passively hope it will happen. Some key ingredients to transforming your life include:
1. Understand that change is a choice. You need to want to take the plunge and be open to learning new information about the topic. It’s going to take work.
2. You must be motivated and committed. It might be a legal matter that finally pushed you into getting your anger under control, or your own desire. Either way you have to be ready to take action. This might include difficult choices like changing your social group or throwing all your past beliefs out the window to start over.
3. Education is key to change. To learn how to rethink how you deal with anger, you will need to take the time to learn new skills by taking classes, meeting 1/1 with a therapist or by reading books. You must have the knowledge to understand why you should change (health benefits, relationship building, improved happiness) and the tools necessary to implement the new behavior (stress management, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution skills).
4. Reframe your thoughts. If you continue to think that the only way you can “win” an argument is through intense anger, then you give yourself the reason it’s okay to exhibit uncontrolled behavior. You can stop this habit by learning what triggers your anger and how to understand the other person’s point of view. For example, instead of screaming at your wife to clean the house, think about her busy day, her health or whatever reasons might have caused the lack of time to clean up. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment and then approach her with a positive solution rather than an aggressive outburst.