Webinar presenter Amy Morgan answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Challenge Yourself to Change Your Life. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Is it okay to lie or trick your mind to change unhealthy habits or directions in which you’re heading?
Amy Morgan: Well, It’s a method I heard was the is it okay to lie and I was like oh it seems like lying to yourself? But you know that you’re lying to yourself, so that may work. It sometimes works like upfront, but then after a while you know you’re lying to yourself, so that’s not going to work. You’re going to actually just need to act to start thinking about things differently. So, you know, they say like fake it till you make it or whatever. It’s kind of like what you’re saying but really you want to be as honest with yourself as possible because honesty is how you get through change. You may, you know, look at something a little bit differently but if you feel like you’re needing to lie to yourself to change something that really just means you need to change your thinking more deeply about it. So, dig a little deeper and change, look at your values and priorities like I talked about, and say what you have to, but you have to believe things in order for yourself to actually initiate change overall.
Audience Question: We’ve had a number of people ask about the idea of how do you stop thinking about negative words that have been spoken to you? Whether that’s a parent’s voice still in our head. We may know that you may intellectually, we may know as adults that parent wasn’t right, but how do you stop thinking about that negative message?
Amy Morgan: There’s a trick to this. What you’re going to do is take a piece of paper and fold it in half tall wise to draw a line straight down the middle. Fold it in half and on the left side of that, I want you to write down the messages that you’ve heard, whatever that happens to be. And I’m going to go back to just the example of the lazy child. If your parents, you know, if you write on the left-hand side, I am a lazy person because that’s what you’ve been told, then I want you to open your paper up and on the right-hand side, write that message differently. Write it in a way that you, that you erase that message and you think, what is the actual truth or what do I want to be the truth? I am a hard worker or I’m calm, but I have a good work ethic, whenever that happens to be. Write the message, that you want to be, the new message, the replacement message, on the right-hand side. And you compare it to the one on the left. You rewrite it on the right, and you follow the paperback over, and you only look at the positive side. As you only look at these positive messages that you’re no longer allowing those negative messages to be the message. You replace them with a better, more positive message, something that takes you to a better place than the negative message took you. It’s really hard because as we hear these things that self-fulfilling prophecy, those things stick with us, they’re embedded deeply. Because you hear them from the people that are supposed to be the people that are on your side. The people that are supporting, the people that are teaching you, who you are, and how to be an adult, how to be a person in this world. And you’re hearing those messages, they’ll stick with you. It takes work, you can’t just write it down and go, okay, I’ve replaced this message. You have to read that positive replacement message over and over and over and try to let it actually replace the negative message so that it becomes your new message.
Host: That’s outstanding advice. I know it took me a long time to understand that even though they were the adult and they should have known better, sometimes, they didn’t. To be able to acknowledge that they were a fragile human who was flawed, and they said the wrong thing, so they reacted in a knee jerk or impulsive right way. Or it’s sometimes just even, that can sometimes even be that first step to acknowledge, “Oh, wow, mom didn’t have all the answers.”
Amy Morgan: When we, when we realized that they are just humans, and just people, and everybody’s doing the best we can. And then you get to stop and ask yourself.
Audience Question: How do you balance allowing flexibility with a plan?
Amy Morgan: Every plan, you have to re-assess, that’s why I said, stop it. And don’t just make your five-year plan, and go, well, this is it and I’m just going to stick with it because two years, then, it may not work with. Like I said, if you just were the only person ever deciding your book or your path, great, you can stay on it. But even that, you may decide, somewhere down your plan is that you should be flexible because you don’t want to go, “This is my plan. I’m just going to stubbornly and obstinately go for it” without saying, well, you know, I should re-assess this. If you’re saying, I’m just going to keep going because I made this plan, I’m just going to keep diving here, that doesn’t seem to be working, but I made this plan. You’ve got to stop and re-assess and look around you and say, okay, “At this point where I am, is this plan still working?” That’s why, you know, you make the five-year plan. But you’re doing many things along the way that the plan may end up different. But you’re not going to get anywhere without the plan. Or you’re going to be just pushed somewhere without the plan. You have to be flexible. You have to re-assess, you have to constantly say, “Okay, I made it this far. Now, Is this working?” And looking at my end goal, don’t want to take a different path to get there, or do I need to tweak it just to bit and change it just a little bit? Still having, but you still have a goal, you can change your goals along the way. You know, we change as people as you’re growing and you’re learning, and you’re experiencing, you’re changing, like that life event thing. Those change who you are. You have to be flexible. You can’t just stubbornly just kind of forge ahead and not look around you and see what’s going on. You have to be sure and re-assess throughout that process.
Audience Question: What about cumulative trauma? The type of trauma that the law enforcement experiences on such a regular basis, maybe that change can come from when a person finally realizes what’s affecting them, is it the same process? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Amy Morgan: I can talk a lot about that, that is my topic of expertise. Cumulative trauma. And I think you said Dan was the name and feel free to e-mail me and we can have a conversation about this personally, offline. But cumulative trauma, especially in responders, law enforcement. Most people have one trauma in their life, it becomes part of their story and they talk about it. And they tell their friends, it’s happened to me, this happened to me, and they talk through it, and they go to counseling, or whatever. Law enforcement will just stick that in and go, okay. Well, that was yesterday on the job. Now, I got to go into today and I can’t think about yesterday because it’s painful and I don’t want to deal with it. And I got to get on and do today. And that cumulative trauma is like carrying around all this weight. And you’re just constantly having weight added to that. And you’re carrying all that weight around. You’re not going to be at your best or not going to be your strongest because you’re carrying around all that weight. You’ve got to heal. So, I was talking about post-traumatic growth. You first have to heal before you can do anything else. So, you work on the healing of the cumulative trauma before you can move forward and start really forging the plans. Your plan, at this point, is to heal. So, you’re making your plan. And that plan is to, to heal, and to work through the trauma and then keep working through the trauma. I think anybody in a responder career should constantly be in counseling. Because you have that established relationship with someone who’s helping you and because you’re going to constantly have things happening that you’re going to want to deal with and heal from. So, make your plan, the part of your plan should be healing. And then once you get that healing process, moving forward, you’re going to learn to heal from future traumas, because you learn the process of how to do that. Get that, get that as part of your initial goal. But I’m happy to talk more about that offline.
Audience Question: How can parents communicate with their kids about change without being harmful? So, if they want to sidestep those harmful messages that maybe some of us were told us as kids, how do we accomplish that? So, like, let’s say it using the example you used earlier, you don’t want to say that your child is lazy. How do you motivate them to change without reverting back to those negative ways of doing things?
Amy Morgan: Be constantly aware of the messages your giving to your children and to any children, and to employees, to anybody who you have an influence over. Watch how you word things because those messages become embedded from people that they look up to and people they respect. So, you have a tremendous responsibility as a parent, to raise good people, with open minds and critical thinking skills and all of these things. So, first, let them know that you’re human and if you say something to a child who that you later think, wish, I would’ve said that, or that’s not even true. Why did I say this? And I apologize, be an adult that has the ability to apologize and correct yourself in front of your children because then they will learn that skill. And they will learn that sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we say things that we wish we wouldn’t have said, everybody does it. So everyone should be able to then turn around and say, I’m, so sorry, I said something I shouldn’t have said and you know what, I didn’t mean it, they’re going to remember that moment more than they’re going to remember the initial message, hopefully, unless you’ve said it a ton. But even if you said it over and over and over, because the more repeated, the more ingrained it becomes. Go backward and say, you know what, I’ve been saying this about you. Let’s change that. If you think your child is lazy. So, two of my children are completely driven and motivated, and one of them wasn’t quite as much. And, so, I would constantly say, you know, I would pick out an opportunity when, okay, I have one son. When he would be doing something that looked, kind of like, oh, he’s making effort, I would point it out and positively encourage the good behavior and say, “Oh my gosh, look what a good job you’re doing. What a hard worker you are.” Now, he’s 21 and he’s an exceptionally hard worker and a very diligent person. I’m not going to attribute it all to my self-fulfilling prophecy parenting, but it’s an influence. We have a tremendous influence, so, look for the opportunities to point out something positive. You can actually change behavior by giving those messages. So say, if you see someone being, you know, their child is sullen, or your child’s too energetic, whatever it is, start pointing out the opportunities to teach them, correct them by pointing out the correct behavior and acknowledging it and positively encouraging it, and just repeating that message to them. And eventually, that’s why they’ll do. They’ll want to make you proud by, by wanting to hear that again. Keep veering towards that and that will become who they are.
Host: I love that idea. I love that idea, and you know, it’s something else you said, I want to make sure everyone heard that. Don’t forget your employees. Because I know that question was in the context of parenting, but you made a really, really important point. I want to make sure that everyone heard that managers and leaders have just as much influence over their employees and they can do the exact same tactic that you’re talking about.
Amy Morgan: Yeah, I have a whole class on the leadership class on how to lead leadership through the self-fulfilling prophecy just because it is so powerful.
Audience Question: Do you have any tips on dealing with failure in your plans and starting over toward your goal? Boy, that’s a tough one, I can see that we all deal with failure.
Amy Morgan: I’m going to disagree with you, Chris. Everybody does have, “Yay, you’re learning.” If you go into your plan, thinking, I’m going to have a five-year plan and I’m never going to fail. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment. People will interact with you, which will change your plan. It’s not a failure, even if it completely doesn’t work. Assess. Stop and self-assess, and say, “Okay, that didn’t work, but I still have this goal, I need to just find a different path to the goal. There’s a long way around. Or maybe there’s a shorter way around or maybe there’s something.” You know, failure is how you learn, that’s how you grow. If everything always went your way and everything, always went according to plan. You don’t learn a thing, you’re not growing from that. Every time you make a mistake, and you have to go back and correct it. I know for one, unfortunately. I learned the best, the most learning and retention happens to me when I make a mistake to learn from, rather than when I just do something so well. So, it’s an opportunity to correct things and to make things better and to grow and say, okay, that didn’t work. as a matter of fact, maybe that just failed miserably. So, I need to do something different. It makes you stop and re-assess, whereas you otherwise might not even take the opportunity to stop and look around you. Stop and re-assess and say, that didn’t work. What else can I do and just re-assess and create a new plan? So, use this as an opportunity to just stop. Take a minute, take a break, acknowledge it didn’t work, and then go, “What will work?”, and then keep moving forward.
Audience Question: What if your significant other is struggling with their changes and it’s affecting your happiness? You know, we so often talk about our first responders and our law enforcement professionals, and our criminal justice professionals. So often, we forget their spouses, and significant others, who are going through a lot of this right along with them, What about them?
Amy Morgan: So, every time you have someone else in your life, in whatever role, or capacity that they’re in, and you make changes, it’s going to affect the people around you. It’s the drop of water. You have a lake, you have a body of water, a puddle of water, whatever’s, and you drop a rock in it, it affects the entire puddle, right? It doesn’t just go straight down in and effect that spot. Everything you do affects everyone around you. If someone else is making changes, or if they’re struggling with your changes, they need to be doing what you’re doing. They need to be re-assessing and looking at how they can grow and looking at how they can use things and all of that and figuring out how they can make their plan, how they can make changes in the same way that you are. So, they need to stop, and you can’t force them, they’re either going to struggle with it, or they’re going to adjust with it, or they’re going to start making their own plan. And you can, like, I said, strategize together, as a couple strategize together as a family and say, “I want to make these changes, it’s affecting you negatively. Let’s also do a strategic couples plan. How can we use my changes to integrate into ourselves as a couple, as an entity,” and then move forward and make changes there. Not everyone is not always going to go smoothly. I’m not like, “Hey, this is great, and it’s not going to work out and you’re going to have a strategic plan that works.” It doesn’t always work like that. You have other people influencing and arguing in and butting up against your decisions and that sort of thing. It’s not always a smooth, smooth transition. I want to say this, think about this, when you, when you want to make a change in yourselves and I’m just going to say, let’s say you want to quit a bad habit. If you want to, you know, diet, or wherever you want to do, change a habit and you decide, I really want to make this change. And you implement all of those things to make that change. And you start, you start trying to integrate them in and making all these things, it is still hard. It’s hard to stick with it. It’s hard to stay on track. It’s hard to make that change. You cannot imagine trying to force that on someone else who hasn’t decided that? If you think how hard it is for yourself to make changes and then you, you think I’m going to change this person. It’s hard enough when you’ve decided to, and you’ve made a plan to. Trying to change someone else who’s not for it, it’s just an uphill battle. They need to decide, they need to change. They need to set their own goals and plans and that sort of stuff. So, if you may have a lot of conflicts because you’re changing, you’re growing, that’s changing their comfort zone over the comfort zone things, you were familiar and comfortable in a certain role, and you’re messing that up for them. So, you’re going to get some conflict, Try to try to make it a joint effort. The best advice I can get is to try to do your own, their own, and a joint effort.
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