choosing your reaction

Something I’ve been working on lately has been choosing better reactions to everyday issues and problems.

Turns out that’s like… really hard.

One of my favorite people, Stephen Covey, says:

“Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions…. The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values—carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.”

So… instead of being influenced all day by other peoples’ actions and whatever circumstances I happen to be in, I try to remember that I get to choose how I feel — and it only hurts myself when I choose poorly. The shortened phrase I’ve been repeating to myself is this: “I am not at the mercy of my environment.”

If I could really get that into my brain, it would change pretty much everything.

  • When Pip is meowing at 4:45am (every morning, on the dot) and I feel like screaming at him — I can calmly get up and shut him in the other room and enjoy snuggling back into bed.
  • Instead of feeling panicked when my yoga class is crowded and a sweaty ninety degrees — I can choose to believe that the heat is giving me a better workout and cleansing my pores or something. 
  • Instead of writhing around and whining when I’m sick or in pain — I could approach it with curiosity and acceptance instead. (I’ve noticed specifically that the tension I feel when I’m in pain is totally self-inflicted and letting just that go makes a huge difference.)
  • Instead of feeling disappointed when my expectations aren’t fulfilled — I could try to let go of preconceived ideas of how things should be and accept what the new situation is.

I think we let things affect us more than they need to. I want to get past that and be happy/calm/peaceful no matter what happens. I’ve noticed that in trying to do so, the existing circumstances improve or lead to better ones. And hopefully, working on this with the little, day-to-day things will help me use the same approach with the more difficult things ahead too.

One more quote from Stephen Covey:

“We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts…. [We can] smile… genuinely and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them, even though we don’t like them. In this way, we do not empower these problems to control us.

LauraFebruary 21, 2014 - 11:56 pm

I love your posts, they’re very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

MonicaFebruary 25, 2014 - 9:55 am

I agree, Kristin. I love how your posts make me think. I as well have been thinking about something along these lines lately. It is all about choice and control, which can be hard at times!

Great post.

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