The Unruly Toddler in Your Head
by Robin Sacks
Your mental space is sometimes like an unruly toddler.
It’s like the four-year-old in the back seat who is constantly asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
Anytime you set out to accomplish something or create a new habit, chances are your unruly toddler shows up in your head. You get excited and motivated for the first few days, but it quickly goes downhill from there as we begin to think, “This already feels like it’s going to take forever, when will I get there?”
Here is how to quiet that unruly toddler in your head, and make for a much smoother ride.
What is Important to Understand:
The way you respond to that toddler is everything.
Any parent (or child) can tell you the knee-jerk reaction is often to say something like, “We’ll get there when we get there!” or “You’re asking isn’t going to get us there any faster!”
Not only is that response never going to stop the voice from asking, “Are we there yet?,” but it’s probably going to make it even worse. The reason is because the question still remains out there, hanging, with no answer. It goes without saying if you don’t actually answer a question, the question is going to keep coming up…until it gets an answer.
A-HA! (as we say in the coaching world).
A Better Response:
A better response would be to say, “It’s going to take about 15 minutes to get there.”
This response will lessen the amount of times the question gets asked, although that response may not stop the question from coming up again.
The reason is because I only have a partial answer now. It might not have given me enough to wait out the entire 15 minutes without double checking how much time is left in that 15 minutes.
After 5 minutes, I might check in to see how much longer? And then at 10 minutes, I might check in to say how much longer? Again, I don’t have an answer that’s going to completely quiet or satisfy that voice.
The Best Response:
The best answer would be to not only give the answer, but also give that voice exactly what it needs to continue monitoring the situation itself so that any time the question pops back up, it knows exactly how to get the answer instantly.
For example, I might say, “It’s going to take 15 minutes to get there. If we take a look at the clock in the car what time is it now? 4:15. OK, that means when it’s 4:30, we will be pulling in to the driveway. You can take a look at that clock anytime you want to know how much time is left.”
That changes everything!
When I allow that voice to take control of whatever the question is, and tell it exactly where to go to get the answer, it no longer has to constantly bug me about it. Whether it’s an actual unruly toddler in the back seat or it’s the self talk voice in your head that won’t be quiet, giving real answers and offering actual control of the situation will help to quiet the voice quickly.
The result? By giving the unruly toddler voice in your head something to preoccupy itself with that reminds it of the answer to any question already asked, your head space will be clearer, you will be able to be in the moment consistently, and your stress level will plummet.
By becoming a more effective communicator with yourself, not only will you feel more in control of the situation, but you won’t be badgered consistently by the impatient voice in your head that already has the answer it needs.