When the kids were little, they really wanted a dog, but I didn’t. So, we agreed to dog-sit for a family friend. The little Pug arrived one evening with what seemed to be a perpetual smile and a sassy attitude.
We tried to make him feel welcome, but the smart Pug didn’t seem at ease with the transition. The children were all over the Pug and attempted to dress him, put him to bed and walk him against his wishes. So, he decided to pay back.
On a car ride to take the Pug back to his home, the smart Pug pretended to be dead. I was driving, and the children were in the back. And, even though I knew he was breathing and alive, the smart Pug remained unresponsive to any form of communication. So what do you when your driving in the car with a smart Pug that’s playing dead and two preschoolers? I calmly called the vet, friends, and anyone on my speed dial who could help me revive a Pug!
What is going on with the Pug, Mom? I heard the children crying from the back seat. “He is doing well. I told them” But then I couldn’t help but think the worst. A million thoughts passed through my mind: Is the Pug dead? Did it eat something in the yard?
I quickly assessed the situation to realize that I had limited options. The first option was to stop the car, revive the pug, or cry in despair with the kids. The other option was to remain in control of the situation. I quickly decided to stay in control of my behavior.
Self-control is a decision to remain in control at all times. When you decide to stay in composure on a regular basis, it becomes part of your behavior. It took me years to intentionally establish a plan to stay in control during stressful situations, and I will acknowledge that there are a few people in my life that make me forget the entire strategy(Avoid them.) So I have a plan to deal with them. Nevertheless, I will thank difficult people and situations in my life for allowing me to practice self-control intentionally, and that includes the “Smart Pug.”
It all starts with a personal inventory and a plan. You can choose to blame it on genes, your family, and like me spend many years justifying the behaviors. (After all, it was not my fault. Is my Italian side, Right?) Or you can acknowledge the action, make a plan and make the first decision to react differently.
The bad news is that the only way to master the skill of self-control is going through stressful situations, understanding the unwanted behavior and taking steps to change it. Start by acknowledging your behaviors and then decide to do it differently. You will find plenty of opportunities to practice self-control on a daily basis. During traffic, with your children, colleagues and even your spouse.
As we pulled into his driveway, the smart Pug miraculously revived and I had learned two valuable lessons. The first is that Pugs are incredibly smart and the second, it’s essential to practice self-control in the middle of stressful situations.