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How To Control The Way You React (part one)

How To Control The Way You React (part one)

    You’ve probably heard sayings like:

    “It’s not what happens that matters but how you react (to what happens) that matters”

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    “It’s not about the situation or the circumstance, it’s about you in it”

    “Things only have the meaning we give them”

    “People only treat you the way you let them”

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    You the Reactor

    All of the above sayings refer to how we deal with, manage and react to what happens in our world. In extreme cases a momentary reaction can influence, if not shape, the next ten (twenty, fifty) years of our life. For good or bad. And on a completely different scale, many reactions will be unconscious, almost meaningless blips on the radar of our life. From the moment you and I get out of bed each day we are reacting (consciously or not) to our dynamic environment. Fortunately we don’t live in a static world; how boring would that be? We react to a broad range of stimuli hundreds of times every day and while the majority of our reactions are incidental and largely inconsequential (catching the falling spoon from the edge of the table, changing stations when we don’t like the music, answering a simple question), others will play a significant role in our future – although we may not be aware of it at the time.

    Finding the Bad

    Some of us have mastered the ‘habit’ of reacting negatively; of finding the bad, rather than finding the lesson or finding the good. For many people, the “what can I learn from this” question doesn’t feature nearly as much as the “why do these morons make my life a misery” or “why does this always happen to me” questions.

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    A Hypothetical

    Two people go through the same event (a minor traffic accident perhaps). One emerges from his vehicle wielding an iron bar, frothing at the mouth, screaming obscenities and threatening violence, while the other calmly searches for a pen and paper to exchange insurance details. The psycho gets arrested for attempted assault and battery with a weapon, while Mr Calm drives home with a small scratch on his car, kisses his wife and kids and carries on with his happy life. Rather than learning a lesson from the experience and vowing to change his ways, the angry psycho gets even angrier at the cops, the judge, the legal system, the government and the rest of the world for victimising him. Following his arrest and conviction, he continues to stumble from one (self-created and perpetuated) drama to the next. Never realising that in the middle of all these catastrophes, he is the common denominator. He is the reason. He is the creator of the mayhem. He is the problem. And the solution; should he choose to be. If only he would learn to manage the events of his life differently (react differently), his life experience (his reality) would change dramatically. But as long as he continues to do the same (react poorly), he will continue to produce the same type of negative, destructive outcomes.

    Calm in the Middle of the Chaos

    The sooner we realise that we can have a great day, every day, despite what does or doesn’t happen on that day, the sooner we will move away from the chaos and into the calm. Keeping in mind that we exist in a physical world but do most of our living in our head. With practice you and I can be the calm in the middle of chaos. For the most part, the only environment you and I can control is our internal one, so how we react, how we interpret situations and the type of questions we ask ourselves will play a big role in that process. Even though we have the ability to control our internal environment (our reality), sadly, many of us hand over that power to situations, circumstances, events, ‘luck’ and my (least) favourite, other people. As long as our internal environment is merely a reflection of our external reality then our happiness will always be held to ransom by something beyond our control.

    Daily Challenge

    Every day of our lives you and I are presented with situations, circumstances, events, challenges and conversations which will elicit a reaction from us (one way or the other). For some this will produce an emotional, volatile, irrational, spontaneous or even disastrous response, while for other folk it will be a more measured, calm, considerate and strategic response to the happenings in their world. Emotion is what drives us, but logic and intelligence is what should be steering us.

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    So why do we do react stupidly when we know better?

    Because in ‘that moment’ our response invariably has nothing to do with logic, understanding or intelligence and everything to do with emotion (insecurity, anger, fear, resentment, jealousy). We don’t actually think, consider or plan, we just react. Rather than (us) managing our emotions, all of a sudden our emotions are running the show. Often with dire results. All that ‘self-help stuff’ goes flying out the window. Yep, seen it. Done it even. Sitting at our computer reading an article like this is the easy bit; it all makes sense. We’re in complete control. We’re calm, cerebral, logical, rational, philosophical and evolved. We ‘get’ it. Well, we get the theory of it anyway. But sitting at our computer is not really when we’re put to the test, is it? It’s when that person pisses us off (again)… and all the personal development lessons from this website go straight out the window. Or hopefully not.

    So how do we react differently?

    I’ll tell you in part two.

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    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 21, 2020

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

    Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

    Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

    What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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    If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

    Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

    These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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    Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

    On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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