Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Your Response is Always a Choice

You are the controller of your reactions, emotions and attitude. You can let yourself be run by knee-jerk reactions or you can slow down and really think about what is going on and then make a conscious choice on how to respond to any event in your life.

We all get bad news from time to time. You find out your car needs repair, you learn about an illness, or you receive a reprimand or an unflattering review from your supervisor. Now what? You can dive deep into your own pity pool, you can get angry, you can take it out on the next unsuspecting person you encounter, or, just maybe, you can stop and think.

Choosing to be angry or upset is easy. But easy doesn’t lead to personal growth or teach you tools for expanded success in the future. You need to hear what was said and think about it at an objective level. This means you need to leave your emotional side out of it. Emotions cloud both your judgment and your reasoning skills.

A negative response serves no purpose. You are telegraphing to all those around you to stay out of your way. Everyone can feel the negative energy. Negative attracts more negative and pretty soon you will find yourself spiraling downward into a worse and worse mental state. At this point no one is going to want to step in and help you with whatever the problem is.

I am not saying that you have to have a positive response to bad news. That would be a pretty tough request for even the most optimistic person. But, you can respond from a neutral position and ask yourself a few questions.

What is the real issue here and what did I do to influence it? Except for rare occasions your past behavior has had something to do with your present situation. Car repairs likely have to do with overlooked routine maintenance or poor/risky driving practices. Poor health news likely relates to poor diet, exercise or lifestyle habits. Negative supervisor feedback is related to performance and/or communication issues.

What can I learn from this? The lesson is in the answer to the first question. If your current thought/behavior patterns are causing an unpleasant outcome, you need to change your patterns. It is you that has to change. The world around you is not going to make special accommodations just for you.

How am I going to change moving forward to help prevent this from happening again? Here is the key and the moment where you can take the event and make your response positive. Admit that you are a contributing factor to what has happened (not the only factor, but a contributing factor). Make a commitment to changing your behavior and start immediately. If your driving is the issue put your cell phone in the glove box when you get into the car. If your lifestyle is a factor, go home and throw out the junk food and start an exercise routine. If communication is the issue, have a conversation with the other person and let them know you are committed to making things work. There is always a change that can be made to help improve any situation.

How you respond to the events in your life makes all the difference. It has always been your choice. You likely just need to learn to separate the emotional reaction from the intellectual. Unchecked emotions pull you rapidly away from a success mindset. Intellectual thought and lessons learned push you back into a personal growth mindset.

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