Our lives are like strings of events. Countless incidents take place each day. From the moment we awaken in the morning, events begin to affect our lives and we must take action in response. Even ignoring an event is a form of responding. Whether perceived as good, bad, or neutral we cannot escape the fact that things are going to happen; that is how life works. Sometimes this unavoidability may leave us feeling victimized, but we must remember that we never need be sufferers of our circumstances. Even if we cannot avoid an event, we always have the ability to choose how we react. The outcome boils down to whether we are reacting or responding to the situation.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines react as “to exert a reciprocal or counteracting force or influence”. When we react to something, we tend to react against it, with force. If we feel as though we are being attacked by an event, we are more likely to attack back. This causes reactions to be sudden and often rash. Possible effects of our reactions are not considered and the result may be a feeling of further victimization.
Responding to an event, however, is a much different approach. Respond is defined as “to make a return by some action as if in answer” by Dictionary.com. Instead of attacking with an impulsive reaction, we can answer with a well-chosen response. The key is to remain calm and recognize our ability to choose. Keeping calm and considering how we would like to respond before taking any action can set the stage for an appropriate response.
If an event has left you feeling angry, alone, disappointed, or stuck in its story, then you have probably reacted. If you have already reacted to a situation, the opportunity to change to a response is always available. When we react, we simply create a new event to which we can continue to react or begin to respond. Check to see if the situation was blown out of proportion. Was it really such a big deal? Can you find any positive aspects to the event? Stepping back, analyzing the situation, and choosing a better way to respond should remove anger, eliminate the burden of a “story”, and make you feel as though you are working with the situation rather than fighting against it.
When we change our perspective and embrace our ability to choose our response, we discover we do shape our path and can alter its course. Any time feelings of victimization arise, shift your automatic reaction to a meditated response and enjoy the empowerment of co-creation and choice.