When I was very young, I was instructed to pick up the family telephone in the fewest rings possible while answering in a very directed manner.

When I was very young, I was instructed to pick up the family telephone in the fewest rings possible while answering it in a very directed manner. While I was taught to be very polite and courteous, it was heavily emphasized that I should not give out any personal or family information to any caller I didn’t know. I am sure my parents offered their guidance similar to: Don’t talk to strangers with candy. However, I condensed the family’s telephone rules as: “Run as fast as you can to get to the phone and don’t say anything that might get me in trouble.”

During the 1970’s, the average American household had one telephone. In my house, much like a firefighter in a firehouse, when the alarm phone rang, everyone was trained to run accordingly. I was very quick to answer but there were occasions when I was outside playing. Disproportionately, it was often my dad calling, regardless of how many rings, he’d always greet me with, “What took you so long?”

Obviously, I taught all the above to my kids for it would be stupid not too. With the advent of mobile phones being on our person having to run to get to the phone was now obsolete. So being able to pick up on the first ring became the new and improved family rule. Naturally, my daughter had nothing to do with it. I was deeply bothered by her teenage years of indifference when she wouldn’t hurry to answer the phone. In fact, there have been plenty of occasions, where I watched in total discomfort, as my daughter would just let the phone ring and ring.

This was out right blasphemy. So I said indignantly, “Are you going to get that?” She merely shook her head. Seeing the caller’s name on her cell phone I asked, “Don’t you want to talk to Matthew?” My daughter answered comfortably, “No, I’m talking to you right now.”

Presently, as a part of my New Year’s resolutions, I have determined to be super mindful of all my subconscious thoughts. The sheer volume of what is going on within me, beneath the surface, is amazing. Further, I’ve been observing different negative alarms that go off in my head milliseconds before they automatically trigger some very undesired habits or reactions. Noticing the bad habits after-the-fact is one thing, but it has been another ball game all together, to see a curve ball heading toward me and not to automatically respond. To be clear, when I say respond, I mean react.

For me, and perhaps many like me, this is where I want to claim some old justification as to my undesired actions. Usually, it’s the same version of something like, “I don’t have a choice.” So, I have been trying new things to retrain my mind, one of which I’d like share. Today, for any negative thought that I hear, I’ve decided to follow my daughter’s decision to simply not answer the phone.

I imagine this as a piece of information that comes across my brain that is “none of my business.” In focusing on my subliminal thoughts I am amazed at the amount of negative information being processed by my mind and thus my undesired reactions. I’ve been repeating undesired habits even though I know better. In retraining my mind, I’m giving concentrated effort to instantly observe this pattern within me by not answering the call –but especially not on the first ring.

The more I delay my trained automatic response to answer quickly, the more time I give myself to stop the ringing. I know by not answering negative calls I am free to process new ways that are consciously and even unconsciously connected. The good news is it is working. Therefore, I’m hanging up on all negative calls that aren’t any of my business.