Responding versus Reacting

silhouette of woman standing against sunset

When confronted with something new or unexpected, we have a choice; do we react, or do we respond? There is a distinct difference, which I’ll unpack below.

In new or unexpected scenarios, it is very common to react. This is most commonly visible in lashing out or responding with angst and stress. Our muscles tense, our voice is raised, and our entire being goes into a “fight, flight, or flee” mode. Our reaction to the stimulus often leaves us feeling far worse off than before the reaction. An alternative is to respond.

Circumstances in the world just happen. Whether we do anything trigger them or not is irrelevant, because they would happen regardless of us. If a tree falls in the forest, and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Without diving into a diatribe on simulation theory, lets assume that yes it does.

To respond is to have control of oneself when confronted with a circumstance which is new and unfamiliar. Responses are calm and measured. Most importantly, a response leaves one feeling far better than a reaction.

To respond is to harness one simple concept; we are in full control of the length of the gap between a circumstance occurring, and our response to that circumstance.

When confronted with something new or unfamiliar, take a moment to take 3 deep breaths. Breath in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, and breath out for a count of 8. During this breathing time, lower your shoulders, soften your face, and let your tongue fall from the roof of your mouth.

Once done with your 3 deep breaths, examine how you feel, and if it feels appropriate to respond. If not, continue breathing deeply until you’re ready to respond, and have thought through the circumstance.

You are the creator of your own reality. Remain calm, zoom out to the bigger picture, and create the reality you want to enjoy.

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