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My daughter wanted to sing a song from the Broadway show, Aida, for her third-grade talent show. But she was having trouble with some of the higher, trickier notes and struggling with some of the words. I didn’t want her to mess up, so I chose the “perfect” song for her: “Doe, a Deer,” from The Sound of Music.

She looked at me, defeated, unconvinced that she should do things my way. I switched into authoritarian mode and commanded her to do my song. My reasoning? I’d rather her be angry at me than hurt by her friends.

Luckily, she didn’t listen to me.

My negative reactive behavior almost stole a special moment from us both, when she sang the song she loved and wound up getting the audience to their feet in rousing applause.

I was trying to be the perfect mother. And while we're trying to get things done perfectly, we get tripped up by our brains into reactive patterns. These reactive patterns, which are sometimes obvious, but most of the time hidden, cause us to behave in ways that we don't want: yelling at our children, trying to control our spouse, or sucking up and faking it at work.

We act in ways that hurt and disappoint others and worst of all, we betray ourselves. Instead of joy and contentment from getting “it” all done, we focus on having more to do, and pressure overtakes our lives causing us stress, anxiety, worry and fear.

Can we have the happiness that we want? YES! The problem is not wanting to be the best in all areas of our lives. The problem is the “don’t wants” that get in the way. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to make a mistake. We don’t want to NOT be perfect.

In my practice, I have successfully taught thousands of people how to get out of this negative pattern through the W.A.Y. (What about You) Method. We retrain the brain to behave and function more responsively and efficiently, to break old, reactive patterns and bad habits, such as the perfectionist, superwoman syndrome.

Since you can’t change what you can’t see, the first, most important step is seeing. Here are five ways to start:

1. Learn how your brain tricks you. Once a day see a “don’t want.” Look for the small ones such as: I don’t want to stop at a red light; I don’t want to wait in line behind a person paying with a check.

2. When you spot a don’t want, see what you feel, everything from slight annoyance to frustration, impatience and anger, maybe even anxiety.

3. See how your brain offers you a reaction to the don’t want,” such as wanting to yell at someone, arguing with them in your head, offering to help so that you can move things along and control the situation.

4. See how often you want to control everything and everyone. And see how that makes you react out loud or in your head or by convincing others to see things your way.

5. See how often you are right and notice how your being right undermines you being happy. Go ahead and be right, but notice how your need to be right comes at the cost of frustration, anger, anxiety and control.

Happiness is getting what you want, and what you really want is to show up and respond in your life, not react.

Originally posted on Working Mother by Julia Harper.

Julia Harper Ph.D., is the foremost expert in neuroplasticity and how rewiring our brains, rewires our thinking and our approach to life. Watch Dr. Harper explain Superwoman Syndrome. In May 2018 YOU can join us for a weekend event on the WAY to SEE, to open your eyes to what, why and how you can rewire your brain and change your life. Visit JuliaHarperInc.com to learn more.

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