Are You Reactive or Responsive?
When we’re having what we call a “bad” day it can always be traced back to our thoughts.
Come home from work and you’re in a bad mood? What got you there? Something happen at the office? Perpetual stress at work? Traffic on the way home? Worried about an aging parent? No matter what the reason was, what were your thoughts about your job? The traffic? Your parent? Whatever?
We Go Unconscious with Stress
The stress has hit, we go unconscious and then before we know it, we snapped at someone, we fired off an angry email, whatever the case may be. In short, we react.
When we’re on our path to living a more conscious life we stage our own intervention before we get to the reactive period. Which means before firing off that angry email we take a few breaths and calm down. If we’re calm enough, we respond now. If not, we wait until we are. The key difference being respond, versus reacting. Responding is coming from a centered place. Reacting is coming from an emotional place.
Before getting to the point where you’re angry, go back to your thoughts. What were your angry thoughts? Even though it’s a common answer to say, “So and so made me angry,” no, no one can make you feel anything. It’s your choice how you respond to anything by what you think. You don’t have to be angry if you don’t choose to be, even if an email is inflammatory. Best not to take the bait and fire off something you may regret later.
When we react, let’s say to that email and we get angry, then our day can snowball. Before we know it, we snap at the next person who walks into our office or our child who asks us for something or the poor guy at the drive-thru taking our order. And it all started because we got angry, which really means we had anger inducing thoughts.
Look Back at Your Thoughts
Look back at your thoughts. How did you see the situation that it produced anger in you? Do any of these thoughts look familiar? “That so and so can’t talk to me like that!” or “How dare they try and get me in trouble with the boss!” or “Hey, you bleep, bleep, bleep, don’t cut me off again!” Or frustrating thoughts about your boss, “I can’t believe he just dumped this on me! He knows I’m up to my eyeballs in deadlines! What a bleep bleep bleep!”
When we’re in the heat of anger it’s hard to re-frame our thoughts. We can’t all be Ghandi, so if you’re angry at your boss piling something on your desk last minute it’s not easy to all of the sudden think, “But at least I have a job. I’m so grateful I have a job.” However, if you don’t let yourself get to the anger stage by having angry thoughts, then it’s not a big deal. If you can take a few deep breaths and see what’s really going on, then it’s easier to step back and find the solution. If your boss truly is heaping the impossible on you, look for options. Recruit some help, extend the deadline, whatever you can do. By having a solution and a game plan, now you won’t feel so angry, frustrated or panicked. Then you are centered to continue the project and the rest of your day can run smoothly.
If you’re angry at people cutting you off in traffic, play some music, call a friend, listen to a podcast, do something to distract yourself. Before you know it, you’re forgetting about the traffic and you can come home or start your day off in a better mood. Here’s a tip for you. The more you get angry at the other drivers, the more drivers you attract that do things that could cause angry thoughts. I’ve seen it happen in my own life and others so I know it to be true. It’s the law of attraction at work – even in traffic.
Take a Few Deep Breaths to Re-center
Get in the habit of identifying your thoughts, then take a few deep breaths to avoid the reactive stage. You might recognize, “Oh, I just had some angry thoughts about my boss. Ok, I don’t want to go there.” Then ask yourself: Can I think a positive thought about him instead? Can I take ten deep breaths to re-center myself? What can I do to stop from having more angry thoughts? Because I know if I jump on the angry train, it could turn into a run-away train. And then we have what we call a “bad day.” One thing led to another. We went unconscious and before we know it, the day got away from us all because it started with some negative thinking.
When you take a few breaths to re-center and pay attention to your thoughts, now you are conscious. Now you’re not reacting. Now you can have calmer thoughts, more productive thoughts, solution-oriented thoughts. When you get in the habit of responding versus reacting and monitoring your thoughts, every day can be a “good day.”