On the tail of the craziest year I think any of us can recall, I've had so many clients that have been struggling to get back to living life, as they are caught in this perpetual reactive tendency. It's created ultra high levels of stress. And it's also heightened my clients awareness of their own shortcomings. I think #2020 brought so much to light for so many of us. The key is to let it teach us, and to release any self judgement along the way.
People who find they react to any kind of obstacle, setback, or challenge, are finding this time especially challenging as the whole experience has been one HUGE obstacle, setback and challenge! Reactions, however are reflexive, often ego-driven, and focused on the short-term outcome. Reactions make you feel better temporarily , but don’t resolve an issue effectively.
Responding is different. It’s intelligent, practical, and considers the long-term implications of that course of action.
People that react struggle and are known for making impulsive decisions. Those that respond have fewer struggles in life. As it turns out, the biggest hassles in life are usually of our own making.
An example that highlights the differences between reacting and responding:
Imagine that you have a horrible boss. Today at work, he's shown just how little he values you, your hard work ethic and what you bring to the table. He's lied, and you've caught him in it. . You leave work enraged and convinced that you can’t take it anymore, vowing to "stick it to the man" and be DONE.
Reacting to this situation might entail quitting in a blaze of glory. You march in the next day and tell him exactly what you think of him. You might even shove your resignation letter into his coat pocket and scream something as you storm out.
However, when you get home, you realize that the job market is tight, you have no savings, and no employment prospects.
Responding to this situation might look something like this:
You determine that you need to find another job. You work on your resume. You put out feelers to everyone you know that have or know of a position that’s suitable for you. You get in touch with a recruiter and let them know that you’re looking.
You also cut back on your expenses and start to save some money to help bridge the future changes you are going to make.
One of these options is short-sighted and risky. The other is thoughtful and logical. One is likely to end in misery, while the other is likely to end in success.
How can you strengthen your odds of success when challenges arise?
Following this process will help you to respond rather than react:
1. Steady yourself. It’s hard to be intelligent, logical, and practical when your emotions are high. Never make an important decision when you’re not cool, calm and collected. Take the time you need. Mull it over. Consider your options.
2. Identify the problem. What is the issue that you need to resolve? Think about what you want to change. Avoid changing a bunch of other things that may have a negative impact on your life. In the example above, you’d get away from your boss, but drastically change your income, too.
3. Be clear on the outcome you desire. It’s just as important to consider the outcome you desire. You might hate your job, but you don’t just want to get away from it. You’ll want a good landing place, too.
4. Make an intelligent plan, not an emotional reaction. Create a plan that resolves your issue and gives you the outcome you desire. Reacting only removes the initial problem. It doesn’t provide a great outcome. A good plan does both.
5. Execute that plan. Use your plan. There are a lot of people that are great at making plans, but never execute them. You don’t want to be one of those people. Put your plan to the test and see what happens.
If you’re someone that reacts to the challenges in your life, you already know the additional challenges it can bring. It’s the perfect example of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
Avoid making decisions when you’re upset. Calm yourself first. Then make an intelligent decision that will remove that challenge from your life in a way that leaves you better than you started. Life is much easier this way.