In every situation or problem, we have a choice to respond or react. And our choice determines how we get affected by the situation or problem. My favorite example is that of a delayed flight. Most passengers choose to react by asking for an explanation for the delay, calling up family and friends to share the anger (‘why does it always happen to me?‘), demanding to ‘speak with the manager’, expecting free meals, continuing to be angry even after taking off and landing at the destination and perhaps for the rest of the day. If you choose to respond, you could be grateful that they found out the problem with the plane or the pilot or the weather while you are still on the ground, rather than finding out when you are 35,000 feet up in the air. You could catch up on some phone calls or shopping or reading, or simply enjoy doing nothing for a change. If the flight has been indefinitely delayed, you can also respond by trying to find another connection to your destination.
When someone criticizes you, you can react by offering explanations or starting an argument. Or you can respond by trying to understand the other person’s perspective, by accepting that you aren’t perfect and by being grateful that someone cared enough to tell you about your weakness.
Have you noticed how some people react in bad weather by cursing everything and everyone, as if the more they’ll curse the better the weather will get. And how some people get angry and agitated in a traffic jam. So how do you respond to bad weather or traffic jam? You don’t. You simply accept it as a ‘situation’ that you can’t change. You expect it, you be prepared for it, you plan better.
The principal applies to everything and everyone in your life that’s less than perfect by your definition of perfection – the baby that cries exactly in the middle of the night, the son who insists on playing music and chatting and SMS’ing while studying, the daughter who refuses to conform to your ideals, the husband who refuses to ask for directions, the colleague who keeps a messy desk, the boss that only notices when you don’t do your job, the friend who is always late, the coffee that’s not hot enough, the service that’s not fast enough or good enough… the list goes on. You can’t change most of the people and things in this world, but you can change how you react or respond. It’s not the people or situations or problems that make us unhappy. Our reaction does. I believe responding can significantly improve the quality of our life, relationships, productivity and even health. Please share your thoughts through comments.
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