Let’s face it. Life is full of disappointments. Curveballs are thrown our way. How do you handle them? Do you react with your gut and raw emotions? Or are you more thoughtful and use reasoning in your response? It’s not WHAT happens to us, it’s HOW we respond.
I wrote a story recently about when I, queen city girl, discovered nature one weekend, and it changed my life. What I didn’t mention was the day my husband and I spent 6 hours in a little strip mall waiting for an emergency car repair. Rather than enjoying a beautiful bike ride, or discovering the waterfalls as planned, we found ourselves in a tiny dive bar watching a football game, which is something I never do (watch football, that is.) Aside from the unplanned money spent, I was completely disappointed about our day, at first. But then after a while, rather than sulking, I decided to change my attitude. I didn’t want our trip to be sad, so instead I looked at this departure from my everyday life as an adventure. It ended up being so much fun, and a day I’ll always remember. You know, sometimes you have no choice.
This scenario could have been a disaster and ruin our trip, but I was able to change my disappointed reaction to a positive response.
So, why the change? I responded, rather than reacted. Reactions are instinctual and come from the subconscious mind. Your reaction is on auto-pilot, based on previous incidences, or feelings you were experiencing. A response is when you are fully engaged, and your self-awareness is high. You have the ability to reason over the long-range consequences.
Things will always happen to us. Sometimes you have no control over the situation. And if you can’t control the situation, the only thing you can control is you – how you feel about it, what your choices are, and how you will respond. Wishing it didn’t happen isn’t going to turn back time.
If you’re searching for happiness, which I’m pretty sure most of us are, the sooner we get out of the chaos of negative reactions and move toward controlling our responses, the calmer we will be.
So how do you move closer to responding, rather than reacting on auto-pilot? Here are some ways you can practice control when something happens out of your control.
1. I talked about this in a recent story. Be mindful and aware. This will help you to monitor exactly what you’re doing and help make the choice to react or respond.
Every day, promise yourself that you will work on being in the moment and choose to respond rather than react. This might take practice, but like everything else, it will become second nature after a while.
2. Practice pausing. Take a beat before saying what’s top of mind. Ask yourself whether you are responding or reacting. This could be the right amount of time to be able to change course and avoid a destructive reaction.
3. And lastly, think of times when you reacted negatively and what were the repercussions. Write them down. Also write down the times you responded positively. Be sure to mark your progress – the times you were able to turn a reaction into a response, and then congratulate yourself!
If you practice these steps, you will notice a difference in your attitude when faced with a challenge of any kind.