I’ve written before about how our behaviour is unconscious and that we are often blissfully unaware of it until and unless it’s brought to our attention. What about the impact of our behaviour though? How often do we consider that in our daily life?
There are two main possibilities when it comes to behaviour; to respond or to react. What makes the difference? The answer is your emotional load at the time and its impact.
Consider two possibilities of the same event; someone cutting in front of you in traffic on the way to work.
First imagine that you’ve had a good night’s sleep and feel well rested, you’ve left home with plenty of time for the journey and you’re looking forward to an enjoyable and productive day. When the person cuts in front of you, you are quite ok with it because the day has started well and there is nothing bothering you. You are responding to the situation and you and the other driver calmly continue on your way.
Now imagine that you’ve hardly slept, missed the alarm, didn’t get your usual coffee let alone breakfast, you’re running late and your first meeting is a performance conversation with your manager that you don’t particularly get along with. Your stress levels may be rising just reading this! When the person cuts in front of you it adds to your stress, tipping you over into reaction; you might get angry, shout at the other driver or offer some form of symbolic gesture …if that happens, the result is that both of you carry the impact of that into your day.
If we were always able to predict what was going to happen next, then maybe we would be able to choose consciously to react rather than respond. Unfortunately, we can’t do that so before we know it we are having to deal with the result of our behaviour i.e. its impact not only on someone else but also on us. The best way to handle this is to do our best to recognise when we are heading for a reaction, regulate our emotions, recognise the cause and the triggers and lessen the impact, if possible.
None of us really intends to react but we all do at times, we are emotional beings after all and modern life offers many opportunities for stress if we choose to take it on. What emotional load are you carrying? Do you regularly feel stressed, overwhelmed or like you’re barely coping? That’s dangerous for you and for others. Research indicates that chronic (ongoing) stress and ‘negative’ emotional load severely affects our physical and psychological health and overall wellbeing and the results are often life threatening. Isn’t life short enough?
While we cannot control events or situations we can learn to choose how we respond to them; what will you do?