Sharpening Our Saw; series about inspiration and reflection

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col (ret) Stephanie Boehning

Hawks have the distinct advantage of soaring hundreds of feet above the ground, looking down upon the Earth and seeing all that happens below them.  The creatures on the ground go about their lives with narrow tunnel vision, not even realizing that the hawk is soaring above them predicting their every move.  Wouldn’t it be great to be the hawk, looking down upon yourself in those sticky situations that tend to get the better of you?  Think of all the things you would be able to see and understand from above.  Your objectivity would allow you to step out from under the control of your emotions and know exactly what needed to be done to create a positive outcome.

Even though you are not a hawk, you can still develop a more objective understanding of your own behavior.  You can practice by taking notice of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors right as the situation unfolds.  In essence, the goal is to slow yourself down and take in all that is in front of you, allowing your brain to process all available information before you act. 

Consider an example.  Let’s say you have a teenage son who is more than two hours late for his Friday night curfew.  You’re sitting in a living room chair in the dark, waiting for him to stroll through the door and offer another creative explanation for why he’s late and wasn’t answering his phone  The more you sit there thinking about your son’s disregard for your authority and the hours of sleep he’s just robbed you of, the more your blood boils.  Before long, you’ve forgotten the real reason you’re so upset—you’re worried about his safety.  Sure, you want him to obey the rules, but it’s the thought of him out there acting recklessly that’s keeping you up.

Watching yourself like a hawk in this situation requires taking advantage of this calm before the storm,.  You know your anger is going to rumble to the surface the moment his weak excuses tumble from his mouth, and you also know he’s more likely to follow your rules if you can get him to see and feel your concern.  This is the moment when you need to consider what this situation looks like from above.  You realize your brooding is just fanning the flames of your anger.  You remember that he’s a good kid who’s been acting too much like a typical teenager lately.  You know your anger isn’t going to make him change; it hasn’t worked thus far.  The bigger picture now in clear view, you decide to explain the rational for his punishment and why you are so upset, rather than just fly off the handle.  When he finally comes slithering into the house, knocking the lamp off the end table in the darkness, you’re grateful you can see the whole picture and not just what’s in front of you.