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Do You Respond Or React?Written by Kristin

My client, Rebecca, started many of our coaching sessions with a declaration of something she was upset about. Even though we outlined her goals for the week, she always lacked the time or energy to follow through, since she was consumed ruminating about something that irked her the week before.

Good intentions...yes. Follow-through, not so great.

Rebecca was stuck in REACTIVE mode and it ate up a lot of her time, focus and energy.

Perhaps this happens to you, too.

When something ‘bad’ or irritating happens, it’s tempting to react to it and get stressed out. However, it’s really hard to solve problems or address issues from a ‘reactive’ mode. It’s far better to RESPOND in a calm, cool and focused way.

So, why is this a challenge for Rebecca and so many other people like her?

Well, it’s all about your brain.

If something happens that causes you to feel threatened in some way, your brain activates the fight or flight reactive mode. It’s easy to get stuck in that mode for days, weeks or years! If you have a habit of ‘reacting’ to anything that threatens/bothers you (such as criticism at work, a rude co-worker, a messy house, a snappy teenager, unexpected bills, expectations not being met, looking in the mirror and not loving what you see, etc), you’ll find it’s very difficult to SOLVE problems and move past them.

Why is this? The problem-solving part of your brain doesn’t function well when you are in reactive mode. It’s tough to think clearly and easy to feel stuck. Have you noticed this before?

Here’s what works:

Reflect on what’s going on without getting sucked into the emotional drama. I do this, with my clients, by asking them to simply state the issue in a couple of sentences without adding any extra energy or embellishments. Then, ask yourself how you will RESPOND (versus burning through time and energy reacting).

For example, Rebecca said….

“My boss gave me the worst review of my life. I suppose I can RESPOND to the review by highlighting the parts that sting and then asking myself if any of it is true. Then, I’ll work on those improvements. If it’s not true, I’ll set up a meeting with my boss to understand his perspective. If I don't feel we're on the same page, I will work through that with him or look for another job if I'm not happy here.”

This is how you can quickly move through issues or problems and get on with your life.

When you’re stuck reacting, you lose the ability to powerfully respond and move forward.

Plus, it’s a colossal waste of time and energy!

Train your brain to RESPOND more and react less. Sure, you might still ‘react’ when something doesn’t go your way, but you can shorten the duration spent in reactive mode by shifting into a responsive mode.

This is easily done by asking yourself this one question:

“How will I RESPOND to this?”

That’s it! Whenever something irritates you and you feel yourself getting sucked into the drama, pause and ask yourself how you will RESPOND. Make sure you feel a sense of calm, too. That’s a good indicator you’re responding and not reacting.

Final words: You will save time and energy if you train yourself to react less and respond more. Anything that happens to you is merely an event. It’s only a ‘problem’ if you interpret it that way. Instead, notice what’s happening and simply ask yourself how you can calmly move forward. Even if you don’t LIKE what’s happening, you can still resist the urge to react. Instead, calmly think about what’s in your best interest, and then proceed. If you do this, you will quickly move forward with your goals this year.

By the way, Rebecca moved herself out of reacting mode after we talked about it. She was able to see her pattern and change it. After our conversation, instead of reacting for days or weeks, she only reacted to an irritation for an hour. Eventually, she shortened the hour to a few minutes. You can easily train your brain to so this, too. The more you practice, the easier it will be. So, give it go and let me know what happens for you.

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