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How To Control The Way You React (part two)

How To Control The Way You React (part two)

    In part one we began to look at how we deal with, or react to, the various happenings in our world. I observed that we have reacting and we have thinking and for some of us, the two don’t merge very often. And therein lies the problem; something happens and we respond without thinking, planning, assessing or considering the consequences of our reaction. If we are serious about creating the new-and-improved version of us then we need to find a way to insert some reason, logic and consciousness into our reactions. Of course I am talking about reactions to significant events and challenges here, not our incidental, daily blips on the radar.

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    Positive and Negative Reactions.

    For many people, their biggest day-to day-challenge lies in learning to react differently. For some their inability to control their reactions may one day ruin their life. They are often volatile, irrational, inconsiderate, unaware and self-centred. At one end of the scale a negative reaction might temporarily damage a relationship or create some kind of short term problem between friends or colleagues, while at the other end of the scale, an irrational, unthinking reaction (brain snap) might see a person spend the rest of their life in jail; a life ruined (and possibly another one ended) because of a reaction.

    Creating Better Outcomes

    In order to create better outcomes in our world and turn those negative reactions into positive ones, we must learn to put some space between the event (the thing we’re about to react to) and our response. A little thinking music of sorts. They say that “time is the great healer”, well it can also be the great “preventer of regrettable and stupid reactions” when we insert it between the stimulus (event, situation, circumstance, problem) and our subsequent behaviour.

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    We’re all Different

    As with any prescription (exercise, food, medication, psychotherapy), there’s no blanket solution for this challenge but there are certain things we can do to minimise our chances of doing something we’ll regret; reacting negatively. I can’t provide you with a three-step process which will be universally effective for combating negative reactions because we’re all wired differently and what pushes our buttons varies greatly. What will stress me, won’t bother you and vice-versa. What will cause a ‘reaction’ in you will go un-noticed by me.

    Here are my suggestions. Use what’s relevant and meaningful for you.

    1. Embrace calm. Obvious I know, but the more stressed, anxious and volatile we are in our general living (thinking, behaviours, conversations, habits, relationships), the more likely we are to react inappropriately in those moments. Calm, peaceful, balanced people rarely become axe murderers. And you won’t see too many Buddhists jumping out of their car with a baseball bat either. Even if you did cut them off. Do Buddhists even play baseball? Sorry, I digress.

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    2. Put space between the event and the reaction. I remember one of my school teachers telling us kids to count to one hundred when we got angry. She was pretty smart; she was teaching us to put some space between the event and our reaction. Of course different things work for different people but you and I need to find a way to create a time buffer so that we don’t do something regrettable. Once you’ve punched your neighbour in the mouth, you can’t really undo that! Finding that time buffer might mean hanging up the phone and calling back in ten minutes, it could mean going for a walk, or it may mean completely shifting your attention to something else for a while and then coming back to that issue, situation or person later. These days my self-control is pretty good but when I was a young (insecure) alpha male, I would often walk away from a (potentially volatile) situation and address it later when I was in a better place (emotionally). It worked for me.

    3. Ask different questions. I have spoken many times about how the quality of our questions affects our behaviours (reactions), the quality of our outcomes and in turn, our life reality. When we ask better (smarter, more thoughtful) questions, we typically create better outcomes.

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    4. Invest your emotional energy wisely. Earlier this year I wrote an article on how and where we spend our emotional dollars. Let’s just say that many of us don’t invest wisely and as a result, don’t get a great return on our investment. You might want to re-visit that article when you have a chance.

    5. Wear a wrist band. Call it your calm band. Call it your positive reaction band. Call it whatever you want but wear it as a reminder of what and who you’re becoming; someone who reacts differently. Someone who creates better outcomes. Someone who manages their emotions rather than someone who is managed. Someone who is more aware, more evolved, more balanced and more in control. It’s about raising your consciousness and awareness. Of course the band is symbolic but used the right way, it can help you keep your head – thinking, attitudes, internal dialogue, reactions – where they need to be. I have worked with many people who firmly believe that wearing their wrist band helped them in a real, practical and measurable way. It was a constant physical reminder of their commitment to do, be and create better in their life. For some people, a band is a simple tool that will help them stay aware, conscious and productive. For others, it’s simply another stupid idea. Funny that.

    Okay, I’m off to find my baseball bat.

    Clearly, I’m not the Buddhist I should be.

    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 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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