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Do You React Consciously and Responsibly?

Do You React Consciously and Responsibly?

    Carnage in the Toy Store

    This morning I went to a local shopping centre (mall) to buy a birthday present for my two year-old pseudo-niece (my business partner’s daughter. Happy Birthday little Jessie!)  It proved to be quite the eye-opening experience for the childless (and somewhat clueless) alpha-male. While the shopping part of the trip turned out to be something of an enjoyable adventure for Yours Truly (who knew toy stores could be such fun?), the same couldn’t be said for the six (or so) year-old who was test driving trucks in the next aisle. As the excited young truck driver lifted the object of his desire above his head to show the Chief Financial Officer what he needed for his next birthday, his chubby little fingers somehow lost their grip and the rather-costly toy (over a hundred bucks) came crashing down on to the concrete floor, transforming it instantly into a jigsaw puzzle. Which, of course, is a euphemism for… an expensive pile of crap.

    For a nanosecond there was silence.

    I knew it wouldn’t last. I looked at the little boy. I saw terror. I looked at the mother. I saw wild rage. I felt a bit nervous for the little fella. I think I had some kind of deja vu moment. Sympathy pains. Or something.

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    For a moment I thought she might actually kill him with what remained of the truck. Simultaneously it started: his crying and her screaming. For what seemed like an eternity, the mother bellowed at the distraught child. Oblivious to her own disgraceful behaviour, the out-of-control woman ranted and raved like a lunatic.

    If not for the ever-growing audience, I am sure she would have hit the boy. Leaving the broken toy on the floor, the woman dragged the screaming child out of the store and left us spectators stunned. I said something to the shop assistant who informed me that such scenes are a regular occurrence in the store.

    Life: A Never-Ending Series of Reactions

    In many ways, our lives are a series of reactions. It’s unavoidable. And while we do our best to create our own destiny and to live proactive and productive lives, the reality is that we all live in a dynamic and unpredictable world. Reacting is a fundamental and necessary part of the human experience. It’s a required skill. It’s what we do hundreds of times a day. Consciously or not. Positively or negatively.

    We hear the weather forecast, we react. The guy in the Mazda hits his brakes, we react. Our partner says something, we react. Our child spills milk, we react. The boss walks in, we react. We hear good or bad news, we react. One way or the other. Somebody lets us down, we react. The lights change, we react. Somebody gives us feedback, we react. A song comes on the radio, we react. An opportunity presents itself, we react. We’re confronted with a challenge, we react.

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    Today you will react hundreds of times and many of those reactions will happen on auto-pilot. Some reactions will be incidental and for the most part, meaningless (scratching an itch, stepping over a puddle, swaying to some music). Some will impact on others (reacting to the woman who cuts you off in the car park). Some will affect your personal relationships (an argument with a friend). Some will be life-impacting (dealing with a tragedy). Some will create positive outcomes. Some negative. One reaction could even involve a child who has accidentally broken a toy.

    In reacting the way she did in the toy store, the mother created numerous (undesirable and unnecessary) outcomes. She:

    1. Terrified a child that (I assume) she loves.
    2. Humiliated him (by dragging him through the store by his shirt).
    3. Taught him that mistakes are not okay.
    4. Drew unnecessary attention to herself and made everyone within fifty feet feel uncomfortable.
    5. Put herself into a negative and destructive emotional state. And no, the demise of the truck wasn’t the problem: her reaction was.
    6. Made herself look like a complete idiot!

    In this life there are many things (most things, in fact) which will happen despite you and me. They will happen to us and around us. Some good. Some bad. However, there is one thing that will always be in our control – unless we choose to hand over that power –  and that is, how we react. Life is not fair or unfair my friends; life just is.

    A long time ago I made a conscious decision that situations, circumstances and events wouldn’t define me or determine my emotional and psychological states; I will do that myself. Consciously and intentionally. I will choose my mood, my attitude, my behaviours, my reactions and therefore, my outcomes. And therefore my reality. I will be influenced by – but not determined by – the events of my world. To the best of my ability, I will consciously and thoughtfully choose my reactions. Will it always be easy? No. Will I do my best anyway? Yep. I will be ever-mindful of the likely consequences and potential impact of my reactions – on my life and the lives of others. Consciousness and awareness (of how I react and the likely consequences of my reactions) are things that need to be worked on. Forever.

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    Our reactions can be relationship-enhancing, or relationship-destroying. They can put us in a solution-focused headspace, or a problem-obsessed pity-party. They can make people laugh or fill a room with tension. They can empower people or discourage them. They can make people feel safe and secure or terrified and confused. They can lead to learning and personal growth or bitterness and anger.

    Someone much smarter than me once said:

    In the context of life, it’s not what happens that matters, but how we react (to what happens) that matters.

    I tend to agree.

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    Today I’m encouraging you to be more mindful, more conscious and more aware of your reactions (big and small) – and the likely outcomes of those reactions – on your life, and the lives of the people in your world. Sometimes, a better life is the by-product of better reactions. So choose to react consciously and responsibly.

    As always, love to hear your ideas, thoughts, feedback and stories.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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