React or Create – Your Choice

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Think about a time when you lost your car keys, and you are already running late.

You know that they have to be somewhere in your house, and you almost sure that you left them in the kitchen, but you can't see them anywhere.

You feel the stress build and know that doesn’t help, but it’s seems impossible to stop all your negative thoughts and emotions.

Negative emotions are very strong and our body is wired for a quick response to negativity.

This happens because negative emotions have a survival value.

Think about our ancestors, tens of thousands years ago somewhere in the African continent. If they saw a lion they had to react fast. This response saved their lives.

Nowadays, we don’t have to run away from lions. However, if we cross the road, and see a car coming fast, we are thankful that we are wired to react and move away just in time to not be hurt.

Negative emotions can be good. They can save our lives. They can signal danger.

The problem is not negative emotions–the problem is that we stay stuck on them.

Think about driving a car. When we touch the accelerator we want to feel something happen. Our nervous system is wired to quickly activate us for a fight or flight response. It’s as if we have a sports car accelerator within us. Small touch–big reaction.

Thankfully, we also have a brake system. We are also wired to relax. This system slows us down like the brakes of an old car– it takes time.

The challenge that many of us face is that we stay stuck with our feet on the accelerator – even after the danger is over.

It’s difficult to release the accelerator and start to activate the brakes.

In other words, we cannot avoid negative emotions and sometimes they be life savers.
The problem is staying stuck in the negativity.

[Tweet “The problem is staying stuck in the negativity”]

It’s also true, that some people tend to stay stuck more than others.

For some people it’s easy to become like a mouse on the treadmill–running, and running, and not going anywhere.

Putting fires out all day long. Feeling stress and anxiety.

This is a reactive mode, and it’s so easy to stay stuck there.

Other people are more like cats. They can relax easily after running very fast.

They enjoy the adrenaline and they know how to enjoy the rest time too.

The tendency to be more like a mouse or a cat, has a lot to do with our genes.

Positive Psychology research shows that our general well being is determined:

  • 50% by a genetic set point
  • 10% by life circumstances
  • 40% by intentional activity, what we do and what we think

This 40% is the silver lining.

We can learn to become more like cats.

Think about this quote that Stephen Covey attributes to Viktor Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I love this quote because, we usually see a stimulus as something that activates a response almost automatically.

There Frankl sees a space.

A brief space where we have the power to choose our response.

A brief space where we can learn to be creators of our lives and not just be reactors.

Try this:

Write the word “reactivity.”

Move that “c” to the beginning of the word.

What word do you read now?

Quite amazing!

Small changes can produce big changes.

Some of us have to work harder than others to slow down and to stop reactivity cycle. Yet, we can learn to relax and create a more intentional outcome.

If you fell like the mouse on the wheel, it's wonderful to realize that you can learn to be more like a cat.

[Tweet “We can learn to become more like cats”]

Think about the possibilities, and how this helps you to make a bigger difference as a self-employed professional.

Love to read your comments 🙂


About Viktor Frankl –

Previous episode where I spoke about Viktor Frankl –