Stress and difficulties have been my best buddies all through my life. In fact they are buddies with every one of you. But regardless of mental stress and the troublesome circumstances life has taken me through, I have been fortunate to realize my own behavior and often laugh at the things I do. Especially when I find myself or others under pressure, I find we do many silly and often stupid things. Our rational and cognitive self disappears and instant emotional responses take precedence which invariably stands tall opposing our basic logic.
Allow me to explain myself by sharing one of my such irrational responses to a situation: I once got on a popular diet recommended by someone close which promised a drastic weight loss in a week – 10 days time which would be a good kick-start to get on an eventual balanced diet program. Having stuck to my diet from day one which involved consuming copious amount of bland vegetable soup and low-calorie raw fruits and vegetables, I arrive on my 4th day successfully. I had dreaded this day because it involved me surviving on partly skimmed milk and bananas. Of course, I hate milk! But as my luck would have it, my morning began with my daily dose of senseless comedy and needless stupidity.
Here is a short version of what I mean: A customer with an annoying disposition calls me when I was in the washroom and left a message for me on my voice mail. I see the message on my mobile phone and decide to listen to it once I am out of the door, on my way to work. Meanwhile, he calls my boss asking him where I was and that I didn’t pick up his call. By the time I was heading out my boss calls me asking me why my customer was calling him and why didn’t I pick his call. Having explained to him my obvious reason, I call up my customer to help his query. During which my boss calls me to check if I had called him. He gets my voice mail as I was still on the phone and thus leaves a message to call him back. He assumed that, perhaps my phone wasn’t working and all calls were going to the voice mail directly. After I was done with my customer, I picked up my voice mail again and then called my boss to let him know that I resolved the customers concern, and my phone was just fine and I am furious with his impatience and micro management and my this annoying customers behavior. Phew! No, this isn’t an exaggeration. It is exactly a day in the life of a Senior Manager in the corporate world of today.
Anyhow, in this madness and my rage, I stop by at the gas station to pick a couple of bottles of my hated milk for the day. I rushed in and walked past the puffed up shiny bags of potatoes chips wearing their contents proudly on their chest, and those gleaming bars of chocolates screaming for my attention. I got to the refrigerator and quickly scanned through the neatly stacked stout cans of soft drinks in all colors and shapes and calorie counts looking for my milk. And there again there stood several of them in different colors, flavors and shapes and sizes. I quickly scanned and saw one in blue which read “French vanilla”. Yes, perhaps this flavor will help me guzzle it down with some relative ease and thus grabbed it, paid for it and got back into my car. As I began drinking it on my way to work, I found the flavor to be rather strong and thick. But as I couldn’t take my eyes off the road to read the fine prints I continued consuming its contents until I finished it. And once I reached my work, I looked at the bottle and the writings in small letters. It said “Coffee creamer” and when turned it around to see its calories I realized that I just had consumed the whole 1000 calories of its contents. There crashes my diet plan and three days of sacrifices.
It is amusing how we react to such simple daily pressures. And what is even more amusing is how easy it is to avoid such reactions. If I had only cooled down and controlled my anger I would have been a bit more focused. If only I realized there was absolutely no need for me to rush to work, I could have been a bit more diligent in picking up the right bottle of milk. I could have very well done that. But I didn’t and hence ended up doing something totally stupid.
It is so odd to see us; intelligent beings do such stupid things in life. Many of our problems and unpleasant situations are created by us and our instant reactions. And we would be the first to see such stupidity in others and either correct them or laugh at them. But we seldom think about our own such behavior. No matter the external situation or circumstances. The choice of how we react to it is absolutely in our control.
The power to choose our reaction:
It is the mental process which helps us to judge and analyze from multiple options and selecting one of them based on preference. Choosing from these multiple options usually results in a consequence or a need for action that would eventually derive at a desired consequence. In any given day as human beings we are subject to making several choices that affect our living. They may be from the simplest forms to complex in nature. The consequences of these choices or decision to choose one from another may affect our lifestyle, religious affiliation, political position, finances, attitude towards others, reaction to situations, and health.
Our life essentially is nothing but a collective result of the choices we have made along the way. There choices were made at several moments in life, based on several experiences and circumstances, but nevertheless these were our choices and we face and live the consequences of these very choices. We may choose to blame the circumstances, but nevertheless the choice was ours and we are solely responsible for those choices and the eventual outcome. We each have the power and freedom to choose right from wrong. Often we end up choosing easy from hard and sadly the hard ends up being the right one to choose. The righteous and just thing to do often involves hardships, disagreement from common folk, against certain odds, and at times contrary to common thinking. But it is in such choices that great accomplishments lie. Greatness has never been served on a silver platter, but it has only been earned by the choices made against all odds with the will, determination and perseverance. But it begins with the choice. And the power to choose is in you.
Here are some ideas on changing the outcome by changing your reaction:
1. When someone can not understand your point of view, try rephrasing it differently with calm. Do not express frustration or anger but instead express patience and stage what you are trying to say differently. Do not brand them as stupid or crazy if they cannot understand you. It could be your choice of words and demeanor is confusing to them. It may be easy for others to understand you but it doesnt mean that this person would also be able to do the same. Remember that each person, their experiences, comprehension, and demeanor is different. You have to match their understanding to make your point. It is not necessary for them to meet your style of communication.
2. When faced with an aggressive or pushy person, do not push back or try to retaliate with more aggression or rage. Instead, try walking away and avoid a futile attempt to communicate with someone who is obviously has lost their mind in anger. Allow them to cool down. Life doesnt end at that moment. You can always return to discuss the concern or issue later again if it is worth your time.
3. In an argument, state your point calmly and patiently try to explain. There is absolutely no point in raising your voice or expressing anger which makes one deviate from the point of concern to a battle of rage and ego. Remember that a disagreement is often with a certain issue and work or discuss to agree or agree to disagree. Do not turn it into a battle of egos or who can shout louder than the other. The volume of your voice or the choice of harsh words has never helped driving a point through. It has only helped aggravate the emotion. (I thank my sister for this lesson).
4. When someone is stubborn in doing something that you believe is wrong and they do not listen to your advice, learn to let them learn by their mistakes. As you learn from your mistakes and people need to learn from their failures, let them go through the process. Some people choose to learn this ay and it is better for them. And also remember that some people may choose to do something which they fully well know could result in getting hurt. But they have their own reasons. For example: I know those who go out of their way to be nice to people who could hurt them because they belive that their nice and loving behaviour may help inspire the other person to become a better person. So learn to be supportive of such people. Allow them to do as they seem fit after having explained your concern. But be there to support them with your love and understanding if they get hurt.
5. Do not stop yourself from reacting to any situation. By staying silent to avoid possible discourse, you invariably position yourself as a victim in your mind. Instead try to react in a manner that you express your point respectfully without hurting anyones ego. Remember that as your react to a given action. Your reaction provokes others to respond too. So try to react in a manner that will invoke a positive response from others. In other words, your reaction can calm things. Your reaction can aggravate a situation. And your reaction can inspire others to be like you.
- React to a problem with a solution not stress.
- React to anger with calm and composure not anger.
- React to stupidity with humor nor ridicule.
- React to adversity with empathy not rage.
- React to authority with compliance not aggravation.
- React to injustice with polite defiance not violence.
- React to ego with class and humility not disrespect.
- React to confusion with patience and rationality not impulse.
- React to arrogance with avoidance not submission.
Remember that your reaction can inspire change. Be inspirational! The world is often nothing more than a result of your reaction to any given situation!
I leave you with some chosen inspirational quotes from some well-known people about choice and reactions:
“Man is made or unmade by himself. By the right choice he ascends. As a being of power, intelligence, and love, and the lord of his own thoughts, he holds the key to every situation.” – James Allen (1864-1912, author of As a Man Thinketh)
For some reason I did something where I realized I could get a reaction. That was when I broke out of my shell at school, because I really didn’t have any friends or anything like that and I just kind of was going along, and then finally I did this zany thing, and all of a sudden I had tons of friends. ~Jim Carrey
“You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in the that field of possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices.” – Deepak Chopra (1946-…, physician and author of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success)
“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”- Denis Waitley (1933-…, motivational speaker and author of The Psychology of Winning)
Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable. – Peter F. Drucker
It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny. – Jean Nidetch