Reaction vs Response
Why you’re too much of an emotional basketcase to get anything done....
Imagine coming back to your home after a night of festivities with friends. You fumble around for your keys in your pocket, pull them out and bring them to the keyhole only to find that your door is slightly ajar. You slowly push it open, revealing a scene of chaos in front of you: bookshelves overturned, papers everywhere, your media console empty...It takes less than 3 seconds for you to register what happened while you were gone: you’ve been burglarized.
As you're walking around assessing the damage you hear a noise upstairs. Perhaps the burglar’s still in the house? You call 911 and hear the voice on the other end say “911 Emergency Response.” In a whisper you tell them you’ve been robbed, and that you think the thief might still be in your home. They calmly walk you through safety procedures, contact the local authorities, and guide you through your dilemma. Their stability in the midst of your situation immediately makes you feel more confident and secure.
Now, notice how they answered the phone: 911 Emergency Response. What if instead they answered the phone 911 Emergency Reaction? What would that have looked like?
“I just got home, my house has been burglarized...I think there might be someone upstairs.”
“OMG how TERRIFYING!! Hide your kids - hide your wife! Whatever you do, don’t get KIIIIIIIIIILLED!!!”
When people react to a situation, their actions are a knee-jerk emotional response to the situation in front of them. A response, on the other hand, evaluates the situation through an established, pre-determined filter, and then acts accordingly.
In the Bible, we see Jesus responding to the world around him, not emotionally reacting..
When he and the disciples are in a boat during a tumultuous storm, Matthew wakes up Jesus asking him what to do. In the Bible, it says Jesus responds to the disciples and tells them to chill out (I’m paraphrasing)…And notice that he was sleeping during the storm in the first place - obviously he wasn’t too shaken up by his surroundings!
There's a big difference between reacting to a situation and responding to a situation. One way keeps you in a vicious cycle and constantly playing defense to all the things that life is throwing at you. The other way allows you to take control of how your life is unfolding and helps you to lead your life at every step.
How do you stop reacting and start responding?
Make decisions about how your life is going to turn out.
That might seem very big picture, but if your story ends in success, then the trivial things in front of you are just bumps along the road. My wife and I decided before we got married that divorce was never going to be an option for us. As I picture the two of us with gray-hair together and grandchildren bouncing on our knees, I know that whatever small, current tension we might be having is just that: small and current. This mindset allows us to be level-headed and solution focused, even in the midst of an ‘argument’ (which makes the argument seem a lot less like an argument and a lot more like a discussion, btw).
How will your new business endeavor turn out? The new habits you’re trying to form, will you stay consistent? If you’ve already determined that you’ve won, mountainous issues become speed bumps along the way. Read more here on how your perspective changes the entire story.
Make decisions on how you will handle awkward situations before they come up.
Before dealing with personnel issues, think through different situations that may come up. How will you handle the potential excuses, conflict, etc. When negotiating a deal, think through what your non-negotiables are and where there is flexibility. How will you handle it if the other party tries to push the envelope?
Make decisions about your priorities before challenges arise.
How will you handle people tempting you to cheat on your diet or skip your workout to go out? How will you prioritize your time when work asks you to stay late again? How will you prioritize where you spend your money when good opportunities show up?
Having established priorities allows you to handle the conflict with perspective and poise.
There are a lot of things that are going to happen in your life: some good, some bad, some planned, some unexpected. The key to not being an emotional rollercoaster your whole life is to set up some basic values and truths that you hold at the center of everything you’re trying to accomplish with your life. And then when stuff happens, don't emotionally react...calmly respond, having filtered your situation through the values and principles you know to be true.
You will consistently feel good about how you’re handling difficulties in life after you’ve set priorities. This eliminates turmoil and drama, and minimizes setbacks. Your response will be poised, consistent and will help you create a life you’re excited about living!
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