Do you REACT or do you RESPOND?

by Nancy Tetreaux

in Newsletter Thoughts from Nancy

Below is an excerpt from Nancy’s bi-monthly newsletter.

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Do You REACT or RESPOND? – April 2013

HeadshotAre you stuck in a rut? Do you have habits that you’d like to change? When we think about habits we tend to think in terms of behavior rather than habits of thought. For instance, I have a habit – a behavior, of staying up pretty late even when I have to get up early in the morning. If I stay up too late too often I don’t feel well or think as clearly as I’d like.I think most of us have some sort of habit we’d like to change or stop; believing that we would feel better, look better or be more productive if we could just “break the habit”. And if we want to change that behavior badly enough, often we can by disciplining ourselves to notice the choices we’re making and make different ones.  Easier said than done sometimes, I know.

But, what about your habits of thought?  Are you aware of them? We all have them. Are you routinely critical of yourself and others, or are you able to have perspective and assess circumstances on their own merit? If something doesn’t go the way you want it to go, what do you tell yourself?  If you don’t succeed at something do you beat yourself up?  Do you give up? Or do you acknowledge yourself for having the energy and courage to give it a try, take note of what you learned from the failure and try again?

In other words, do you react – or do you respond?

The fact is we react most of the time. When we re-act, we are just repeating an old, familiar action, behavior or pattern of thought – an old tape playing in our head. Reactions come easily because our brains like repetition; they don’t have to work so hard to figure stuff out. But just because something feels easy or familiar, it doesn’t make it right or true.

A re-sponse, on the other hand, takes some thought; we take responsibility for the choice we have in the moment to say (correspond) or do something that might be more appropriate to the situation or more considerate of ourselves or others. Maybe even something we’ve never said, done or thought before.

Our thoughts and behaviors are habitual and it takes a conscious effort to recognize that in almost every situation we have the choice to re-spond thoughtfully rather than re-act in the same old way we always do. We can think a different thought; a better, more constructive thought. It might feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first, especially when we’re angry or disappointed, but we can do it if we choose to.

The next time you catch yourself in a negative frame of mind about yourself or someone else, check to see if you are reacting and consider responding instead.  I bet your response will be a lot more positive than your reaction, once you’ve given it a little thought. Like all things, the more you do it, the easier it gets – like a habit.

Things don’t change; unless we change.

~ Nancy

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