When we react rather than respond to any given situation, it could feel like we are the ball in the pinball machine, we get pinged and dinged back and forth, side to side and before we have any time to rebound, we fall down the drain. Sound familiar? If you want to stop bouncing around and get some control in your life, start by acknowledging what you control and by accepting that change comes only from within.
Start first by identifying your triggers. What stresses you out? What makes you react impulsively? Try making a list of these triggers and write down your reactions, being sure to ask yourself how you could have reacted better.
Next, recognize what lies within your domain of influence, what are the thoughts and actions that you can impact and change. You can’t control the world, the economy, nature, or other people, yet alone change them. But you can control your thoughts and your actions, and you can change yourself. If you can’t change the outcome, how can you behave differently. Take for example how you might react with anger to an unpleasant situation and challenge yourself to do the opposite of what you’d normally do, consider changing your physical state in order to change your mental and emotional state: if you’re sitting, trying standing up and if you’re standing, sit down instead. You can try to diffuse an unhealthy reaction by going for a walk to clear your thoughts and then come back to the situation with more clarity. This practice will form into a habit where you’ll learn to respond with less impulse, which inevitably makes you gain more control and release stress. It will also allow you to gain a greater sense of calm and clarity.
To sharpen the saw and continuously get better at managing your stress and reactions, try learning to better manage your time. You can do this by making a list of all your tasks. Which ones are time-suckers? Which ones can you influence? Which ones require priority? Remember, priority means that there is ONE thing that is absolutely urgent and important, that’s where you need to put your immediate focus. Other tasks that are less urgent can be planned to a later date and scheduled into your calendar, not put on the back-burner.
Finally, check in with yourself often. Look over what you have written down. How did you react to the situation and how are you feeling? Do you see a constant improvement in the way you are responding to a situation or do you still feel like the ball in the pinball machine, stressed and reactive? If so, go back to step 1 and repeat. If you feel that you’re getting better with time and gaining a sense of calm and clarity, that you can reflect and rebound from a heated situation, then you are building resilience and forming a good habit of responding rather than reacting.
So to recap, learning to respond rather than react means that you can identify your triggers, assess what is within your control and take the necessary and timely action. When this becomes a habit, you won’t feel like you’re the ball in the pinball machine bouncing back and forth, you’ll have more confidence to face situations head-on or more resolve to accept them for what they are, to adapt and move on.