We can’t always control what happens in our lives. Whether it be your car breaking down, an illness, a difficult conversation with a significant other or losing a job— these things happen, and they can create a lot of suffering without the right mindset. When I was growing up, I tried desperately to run away from problems hoping they would go away. I quickly realized that the more I continued to run, the more my problems kept chasing me. I knew this was not the right way to approach life. I was living in autopilot mode running from problem to problem As I looked for answers— by reading books and inquiring within myself— I came to what may seem to many— an obvious solution. So instead of running away from my problems, I started to run toward them with a new perspective. At this point, is when I began to ingrain the mindset of consciously responding to life’s circumstances instead of unconsciously reacting.
Reacting to life is instant. It is mostly driven by defense mechanisms, fears, prejudices and inaccurate beliefs. It doesn’t require any thought. In this state, your perception tends to shrink causes you to head down a path of more issues. On the other hand, responding is consciously taking in a situation that may arise and deciding the best course of action. This mindset considers the wellbeing of yourself and others and stays in line with your core values of who you want to become. When you consciously respond to life’s issues, disagreements, negative people— your perception widens so that you are able to create solutions for your life. In short, unconsciously reacting to life situations weakens you but consciously responding empowers you.
Reacting creates more problems in your life and responding creates more opportunities for solutions. I love how Bob Proctor puts it, “When you react, you are giving away your power. When you respond, you are staying in control of yourself.” When you respond to life’s situations, it strengthens you so you can catapult over your problems much more quickly. Instead of avoiding difficult conversations, start leaning into them so you can resolve what’s on your mind anyways. For example, instead of building up excuses for missing the gym, ask yourself will your present actions give you the body you desire? Likewise, instead of getting upset if someone cuts you off in traffic, create a space of mindfulness and ask yourself if getting angry will resolve your situation.
When you can consciously respond to life’s events, you can more effectively contain the adversity to ensure it does not bleed over into other areas of your life. For example, when we react to issues in the workplace, we can unconsciously take these unresolved problems and negatively direct them toward loved ones in the home. If a response approach was taken, a favorable action could have been taken that might’ve allowed you to resolve the situation before bringing it home. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control the thoughts that we think and how we respond. As neurologist Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” The freedom and growth you wish to experience in life are found in skillful response.
Positively Caviar, Inc. (PCI) is a grassroots nonprofit organization focused on instilling mental resilience by way of positive thinking and optimism. Each month, a member of the nucleus team features a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutritional facts and stories that are positive in nature to support a positive and healthy lifestyle. To learn more about how you can support, volunteer or donate to PCI, visit: staybasedandpositive.com.