“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
– Richard Rohr
This quote has been a reoccurring theme for me in the last couple of weeks, both personally and professionally. Even as a kid, I knew that there were times when I chose the way I behaved based on who was watching and who I was with. There was not a lot of focus on authenticity, and one of my Mom’s favorite phrases was to fake it until you make it. Whether it be confidence or kindness, she knew if we practiced long enough it would start to be a habit.
Despite sometimes feeling inauthentic, I realized at a fairly young age that acting more responsibly and respectfully actually made me feel more responsible and respectful. It was like I stepped into the role of being a better version of myself and my behavior changed my way of thinking. So, over the years I’ve learned the best way to become a better person is to start acting like one, even when I don’t really feel like it.
A couple of weeks ago, Warren and I were out getting tacos. We always like to sit at the bar because we think it’s easier to have a conversation while sitting closer. This makes last-minute dinner plans easier because we never need a reservation, but snagging a spot at the bar can be tricky when its busy. On this particular night, the place was packed. We had squeezed into a corner spot with one seat, and we were waiting for the two women next to us to get up so we could order food and have room to eat. One of the women got up to use the restroom right before they checked out, and another woman stepped in to grab a few drinks for their group of about seven people celebrating a birthday. Long story short, she ended up grabbing the two seats when the women sitting beside us left, and it felt like she intentionally scooped up the seats right out from under us. She kept her back turned to us, I assumed because she was avoiding us, the people who had been waiting for the seat.
But this story is not about her. It is about my reaction. I was pissed! I responded by immediately paying the check. Instead of eating there, I wanted to go find another restaurant.
Thankfully, as soon as we paid our check, a couple of seats at the other end of the bar opened up, and we moved down there. This also allowed the woman’s entire group a space to eat and celebrate without us in their way.
Having a little more space and time gave me the chance to reflect on what was happening with me. At first, I was angry and wanted to say something to the woman. I’m sure I would have been polite, but I’m glad I thought better of it. I talked with Warren and he helped me realize that while the woman may or may not have taken the seat on purpose, it had all worked out. But I still didn’t like how I was feeling, since I was thinking some pretty harsh thoughts. Warren suggested I buy their group a pitcher of Sangria. This felt like a totally crazy thing to do, while also the right thing to do. What’s more is that I knew it was the exact thing a person would do if she happened to be on her best behavior.
As soon as I asked the bartender to do it, I felt different. I knew the action was a way of living into a new way of thinking (and feeling) about the event. As a bonus, I got a great big wonderful hug from my new friend, and I have the grace of being somewhere on a stranger’s social media account, as she took a selfie of the two of us.
This was such a great reminder of how actions are so powerful in dramatically changing our thinking. Don’t take this to mean you should suppress your feelings or judge your thoughts. This is simply a way to become what you know is you kindest, most thoughtful, best self, by taking simple actions that allow your thinking to follow suit. It is knowing that sometimes you do act kindlier when others are watching, and that if you do it often enough, it becomes how you think.