Bring Your Best Self to All Your Roles
When I’m teaching Stop & Shift, one of the first things I do is ask people to answer one question: “Who do you want to be?”
It sounds so simple, but until you can really define who you want to be—your values, your purpose, your characteristics—you’ll stay stuck.
Because in order to bring your best self out into the world, you have to know what your “best self” looks like to you. When you get really clear on who you want to be, you can start aligning your choices to keep moving you closer to that goal.
Start by making a list of the values, beliefs, and characteristics you most want to embody in your life. Here are a few that I hear a lot when I teach at events:
Side note: I’ve included loads more examples and an activity that will help you get clear on who you are and who you want to be and use it to create your own personal compass in Chapter 5 of Stop & Shift!
Now, listen, maybe you read that list and thought, “Well, geez, I don’t know! I want to be all of those things!” I hear you! But try to home in on three or four words that really resonate with you. Those words are going to be the anchor points when you Shift. Focusing on a few that are deeply meaningful to you is going to help you find your center and make intentional choices.
When you find yourself in a tough situation or feeling overwhelmed about a big decision, the first thing to do is to Stop the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. You call on one of your mindfulness tools—breathing exercises, visualization, touching base with your five senses, or anything that works well for you—and use it to help you ground yourself in the present moment.
That Stop gives you a beat to reflect on your thoughts before they turn into words or actions, and it builds awareness about your reactions.
The Shift, though, is where you analyze those thoughts and then choose to align your thoughts and actions so that they reflect your most intentional self.
But what does that look like in your day-to-day life? We all jump between various roles in our lives. How can you pick just a few words that guide all of your choices and actions?
I’m so glad you asked, my friend! Let’s look at four different roles and talk through how you can use Stop & Shift to bring yourself back to center and choose your responses to reflect the person you truly want to be.
We’ll take one value that I hear most often in my work—*kindness—*and four different roles that many of us balance: parent, professional, partner, and person.
For anyone like me, who is parenting a preteen or teen, you know that you find yourself bumping up against a lot of stank attitude. But honestly, all kids cycle through frustration and crankiness (heck, adults do too!), and their parents catch the brunt of it.
Usually, it starts with you asking them to do something they don’t want to do, right? Annnd it’s rarely a major task. Most of the time, it’s something super basic, like asking them to brush their teeth.
They huff and puff.
They moan and groan.
They slide off the couch and lay on the floor like you just asked them to walk to China and back.
In other words, they get suuuuuuuuuper dramatic about something that would take less than 5 minutes.
And as a parent, you’re irritated. I mean, c’mon, dude. You’re wasting your time and mine. Let’s just get it done and move on, right?
When you feel that frustration building up, you Stop. You just take a beat to recognize and acknowledge that frustration. No judgment. Just noticing.
And then, you Shift and choose how to respond in this moment.
You could choose to mirror your kids’ behavior. You can show your irritation on the outside. You can stomp around. You can start barking orders and threatening punishments.
But you know that matching their energy is only going to add to the dramatics. There’s nothing to be gained from dumping more negativity into interaction. All that does is create strain in a relationship that you’re going to have for life.
Or you can choose to touch base with that inner value you want to embody—kindness.
That gives you a chance to ask yourself, “What would be a kinder approach that still gets us to the goal?”
Taking the kinder approach isn’t just about being gentle with your kid. It’s also for you. Acting in alignment with your values allows you to preserve your energy and your peace.
So what would a kinder approach look like?
Maybe you tease them a bit for being such a grump. Maybe you just start tickling them. There’s nothing like laughter to break through that crankiness. Seriously, just try it! Once your kiddo gets that release of emotions, they’re going to be much more likely to do what you asked.
Maybe make it a game: “You don’t want to get up and go to the bathroom? Fine. But whoever gets there first gets to pick the movie tonight!”
Maybe you just walk away. Give them a moment to process their own emotions and give yourself the space to move through yours. Figure out a consequence if you have to ask too many times, but present it to them with clarity and kindness.
Start with the value you want to embody in your life, and then intentionally take actions that align with that value.
Side note: We talk about “gentle parenting,” but being gentle doesn’t mean that your kids get to walk all over you. It’s about creating a relationship where, no matter what is going on around them or inside them, they know you’re a soft place for them to land. It’s a long-term approach that starts with deciding what kind of relationship you want to have with your child and making sure your actions foster that relationship.
Imagine you’re managing a project at work, and one of the members of your team doesn’t come through on their piece by the deadline. You ask them for an update, and they give you a reasonable explanation for why their work is late. You set a new deadline. But then they still don’t come through. Now they’ve fallen short twice, and they’re holding up the rest of the team and the process.
You’re feeling a lot of big emotions brewing. You’re frustrated. You’re disappointed. You’re overwhelmed.
All of that is 100% natural. You don’t have to judge the emotions that start bubbling up; you just have to Stop and take a beat to notice them.
And then you choose how to respond.
You could come down hard on them. You could accuse them of not being dedicated to their work. You could call them out in front of the team. You could threaten to pull them from the project.
But all you’d have done is create another barrier to getting the job done. Now your team member has put a wall up. Your interactions are tense. They’re on the defensive when you should be collaborating. They’ve shut down, and you’re not any closer to getting the project completed.
Or you could Shift and remind yourself that you value kindness. That reframe gives you a sense of clarity: This is not a personal attack. Almost none of us miss deadlines at work just to make our boss’s lives harder.
The reality is that you never know everything that’s going on in your teammates’ life; you only know what they decide to share. No matter how important our work tasks are, they’re never the only thing on our mind while we’re working.
You can have a difficult conversation with that person, but how you deliver it makes all the difference. You opt to start with kindness. You let them know where they fell short, but you stick to the facts. Maybe you even ask if there’s anything they need to help them get back on track.
Now the channel of communication is open, which is absolutely crucial.
You’ve preserved your own energy, and you’ve kept yourself in a composed place, so when they answer, you can think clearly and expansively about how to respond and adjust. If they ask for support in getting the task done, you’ll have the clarity to make suggestions or create a plan. If they share that something is preventing them from finishing their piece, you’ve got the mental space to pivot, find another solution, and keep the project moving forward.
And because that line of communication stayed open, you’ll be able to evaluate how to approach the next project. Maybe you’ll learn that the systems aren’t in place to support this person in this task; now you have a chance to address the gap. Or maybe you’ll find out that this person was going through something personal in the moment, but it’s now resolved.
By starting with composure and kindness, you’ve avoided wasting your time trying to fix things that might not even be broken, and you’ve gained information that will help you create a more positive, productive relationship with your team.
It’s one of those busy nights where the hunger starts to hit and you realize you haven’t made any plans for dinner. You’re spent, and you feel like you don’t have a single good decision left in you.
So you turn to your partner and say, “What do you want to do about dinner?”
They respond, “I don’t know. I’m good with whatever.”
And now you’re just done. You’re at the end of your patience for the day. You’ve asked for their help and input, and they’re giving you nothing. You’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and angry, and you can feel it all pressing down on you.
So you Stop to notice those feelings. Just check in with what emotions are coming up for you.
And then, you Shift and choose your response based on the kind of partner you know you want to be.
You could just blow up. You say something snarky like, “If I had any good ideas, do you really think I would’ve asked you?” You could go on a tangent about how your partner is unsupportive and unhelpful. You could bring up a dozen other examples of times when you felt like your partner has blown off what you needed.
But all you’ve really done is create a bigger fight. Now your partner is hurt and on the defensive, and you’re down the rabbit hole of years of frustrations. And guess what? You’re still not any closer to having a plan for dinner.
Or you can touch base with your values and ask yourself, How can I be clear about what I need without losing my cool and blowing this up?
That opens up the space for you to see this conversation from a gentler, kinder mindset. Your partner probably doesn’t know how tough your day has been. They don’t understand how tired you are. They don’t know that making what seems like a simple decision is threatening to push you into total overwhelm. They can’t know all of that from your question.
Your partner wants to show up for you and support you. If they really understood how beat down you were feeling and had a clear directive on how they could help, they would probably be on it in a heartbeat.
So you’re clear about what you need, and you say it in a loving way.
Maybe you inject a little humor: “Oh, man, my brain is fried tonight. I need you to just pick something; otherwise, we’re going to be eating dog food.”
Maybe you’re just honest and transparent: “This has been a day, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. It would help me a lot if you could come up with a plan for dinner tonight.”
Now you’ve given your partner the opportunity to show up for you and told them the best way they can do it in this moment, and you’ve stopped yourself from spiraling into a fight that would’ve only drained you more and added conflict to your relationship.
And if you’re on the other side of this kind of conflict with your partner? (And let’s face it, we have all had times when we were on the other end of this fight.) Choose kindness then too.
We spend the most time interacting with the people in our close circle, but every time you step out into the world, in every single interaction, you have a chance to show up as your best self and make the world a brighter, more peaceful place.
I’ll give you a personal example here.
A few weeks ago, I was out and about, and I needed a caffeine boost. I don’t go to Starbucks very often, but there was one nearby, so I pulled into the drive-thru. The barista on the other end asked me for my order, but I had no idea what to order. I asked her for a bit more time. I stared at the menu, and well…I couldn’t process all the options. I was lost!
So I decided just to be honest and laugh at myself a little. I said, “Okay, here’s the truth. I usually drink my coffee at home. I don’t know how to order at Starbucks. I honestly have no idea what I want!”
In that moment, she easily could’ve gotten irritated with me. She could’ve gotten impatient. She could’ve decided that she wasn’t going to waste her time waiting for me to decide and just left me to read every dang thing on the board and make a choice.
But instead, she Shifted into kindness.
She said, “No worries! What are you looking for? What do you like?”
Okay, now that was easy! “I want creamy and sweet!”
She laughed and talked me through a couple of options, which helped me finally make a choice.
When I pulled up to the window, I took a second to look at her name badge and said, “Hey, Marie, I really appreciate you. Thank you so much for not getting irritated with me and for being patient and taking a minute to help me figure out what I should order.” We chatted for a couple of minutes, and when I pulled away with my sweet, creamy treat, we both had smiles on our faces!
Just that one moment—each of us showing kindness to a complete stranger through patience and gratitude—created a bright spot in my day. (And hopefully, in her day too!)
If your goal is to embody kindness, you don’t have to save it all for big, grand gestures. Instead of focusing on your phone or being impatient because you’re rushing to the next thing, just Stop & Shift yourself into the present moment. When you’re in line at the store, greet the cashier by name and ask them how their day is going. If you’re walking down the street and make eye contact with someone, give them a smile.
You can drop kindness everywhere you go, and the more you do, the more it truly becomes embedded in who you are.
And that’s true of any other value you want to choose to embody. In each interaction, when you choose to be kind or grateful or joyful or resilient, you literally strengthen that neural pathway. When you choose to do it in all aspects of your life—as a parent, a professional, a partner, a person—and notice how incredible it feels to act in alignment with your values, you will keep choosing to show up as that person again and again.
You’ll find yourself having great interactions with the people around you. You’ll notice that you have more great days. You’ll amplify the good in your life and in the world around you.
Using Stop & Shift allows you to make intentional choices about how you show up in each moment. As you continue to practice using it, you may notice that your responses become more automatic and natural over time.
You become the person you’ve always intended to be, one conscious choice at a time. Every shift is growth. 🌱