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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.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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