Generally speaking, there are two primary states we act from: conditioned responses and deliberate choices.
Conditioned responses are what we do when our buttons are pushed or our emotions are triggered. These are the automated scripts we have running in the back of our minds based on how we’ve been programmed to react to certain kinds of situations.
Most of us have a ton of scripts running simultaneously. We have one type of script for what to do when someone is mean to us. We have another type of script for what to do when someone disagrees with us. We have yet another kind of script for when our kids act up, or when our parents disapprove of our choices, and so on. Each person has their own unique scripts, but what makes us all alike is that we have them. Push a person’s buttons and you’ll see their script in action. Most of our days are characterized by the things we do based on these scripts. Circumstance and conditions come along that activate our triggers and BOOM—like clockwork—our scripts set into a motion a series of responses designed to help us survive or save face. But here’s the problem: most of our scripts are outdated.
Scripts are created through a combination of schooling, emotionally driven decisions made during times of peak experience or high stress, what adults modeled for us when we were children, and so forth. Our scripts for dealing with conflict, for instance, are based on what’s worked/failed in the past or what we think we need to do to survive. In other words, our scripts are based on something other than the practice of consciously thinking about what we want in the present moment.
So when you and I are in the heat of the moment (ie. trying to decide how much money we’re going to gamble in Vegas or what to say in an argument with the spouse), our scripts don’t care about what we want. They only care about being faithful to the conditions that programmed us to do whatever our knee-jerk reaction is. Our scripts only want to be efficient and they don’t define “efficiency” as “helping us get what we want.” They define efficiency as “do what requires the least amount of attention and energy in the moment.”
The key to getting more of what we want lies in liberating ourselves from enslavement to our own scripts. We achieve this freedom simply by choosing to be conscious. We choose to be conscious by slowing down and taking the time to address each creative challenge with one fundamental question: “What do I want?”
When we step back and ask “What do I want out of this interaction, conversation, or experience?” we begin to realize that most of the scripts we have running are not serving us. Then we have a choice. At that point, we can decide to craft a new script and create a new reality. Is it really that simple? Well, nothing is *that* simple, but it’s a lot simpler than living on auto-pilot and allowing your present life to be dictated by unconscious decisions you made several years ago.
Be aware of your scripts. Be conscious of your programming. It’s the first step to living freely.