12/12/2012 04:02 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Who Has Been Pushing Your Buttons?

From time to time, we all get our buttons pushed by various people in our lives. For instance, a relative, friend or co-worker who tends to say or do something that really hurts our feelings, makes us angry or simply drives us up the wall. Well, when we let other people push our buttons, we actually have a choice: react or respond.

The difference between reacting and responding is a matter of who is holding the power. When we go into reactive mode, our behavior is automatic and either defensive or offensive. The result is a loss of control over our thoughts and emotions. We are no longer in charge of our feelings and have given permission to others to strip away our personal power and sense of self, along with our happiness. However, when we go into responsive mode, our behavior is based on an awareness of who we have allowed to push our buttons and why. The result of this understanding is a calmer, more effective approach, vastly increasing our chances of living a more centered life, tolerant of others and at peace with ourselves.

So if you really wish you could take your power back and begin to deactivate your buttons, consider these three steps that will take you from powerless to powerful:

1) Use Your Imagination:

Sometimes life gets away from us and we become complacent, falling into a limited routine. We get tunnel vision, only seeing one possible way of looking at things. When this happens, we often give life's unexpected challenges undeserved significance. However, using our minds as creative tools, we can make circumstances appear larger or smaller, depending on how much focus, energy and importance we place on them.

Picture a huge bubble looming over your head. It's so big because you've been thinking about it and thinking about it, blowing it up bigger and bigger. This huge bubble is filled with the insensitive, selfish behavior of another, which has taken ownership of your peace and joy. You are at its mercy as it weighs heavily atop your head. You feel as though you're the size of an ant, powerless, as it presses down on you. Now picture yourself as a mighty, powerful giant. We're talking a thousand times the size of this bubble! The tables have turned as you now tower over it. You realize how it could never have any effect on you, so you step on it and crush it like a grape! From this vantage point, you can see far and wide. The view is amazing! There was so much you were missing -- unlimited choices, endless options and not a tunnel in sight!

Pull out your imagination. Dust it off. Open up your vision. You'll find a whole world just waiting for you out there... a world full of solutions, ideas and inspiration. The only one powerful enough to hold you back is you.

2) Let Your Heart Decide:

We all rely much too heavily on our heads to make decisions, and most of the time, we wish we hadn't. I don't care what our heads tell us we should or shouldn't do, can or can't have, need, want, expect, know or don't know. If it doesn't feel right in your heart, then it isn't the right direction for you. Our feelings are our barometers. They are what we need to rely on to forge our path in life. When we feel fear, anger, anxiety, sadness or any other emotion that makes us feel bad, our hearts are alerting us to the fact that we have just given our power away to someone or something that has no right to it.

Whenever you put your happiness in the hands of another, there should be red flags flying up everywhere! That is not who you are. You are strong and rational. You are not the victim of needless suffering. Rely on your heart. It will pump courage into you so you can see beyond the fear, the anger, the sadness, and choose to respond differently. You may not know where your heart will ultimately lead you, but what really matters is deciding to take that leap of faith and trust it.

3) Plant Your Garden:

How does your garden grow? You plant seeds in your garden every day, giving life to thoughts, words and actions for the future. Observing aspects of your life today will shed light on whatever you have planted and nurtured for years. Do you notice the plants that you've nourished have flourished, and the seeds that have grown are the ones you've been feeding? Have you tended to situations or people that steal your joy and knock you off balance? If the answer is yes, then begin today to let the plants in your garden wither away by not giving them your energy and attention. They do not please you or serve your greatest good. Instead, choose to plant seeds of awareness, seeds of understanding and seeds of peace. If you do, you'll be able to watch the brilliance of all the many colors begin to bloom in the garden of your life.

From day to day, we are tested. Whether in our professional or personal lives, those around us will push our buttons and challenge us in one way or another. By making the choice to react to certain individuals and situations by giving them control over our personal power and sense of self, we are waiving our right to a life of peace and happiness. However, by reflecting upon why we have given certain people the power to push our buttons, and by noticing the types of situations that cause us to react, rather than respond, we gain crucial awareness. And awareness alone will begin the "button deactivation process."

What are your buttons? Who has their fingers on them? Whatever the issue at hand, say to it, "You no longer have control over me! I'm taking my power back from you!"

How does it feel to take your power back? Empowering!