Moving From a Reactive to a Responsive Mind
Do you ever find yourself getting upset about something completely out of your control?
Do you find yourself ruminating on a small inconvenience and making a situation bigger in your head than it actually is?
Do you ever catch yourself jumping from one ego-driven thought to the next only to find yourself angry and upset over nothing?
Last week this quote came up in an email I subscribe to…
“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.”
This resonated with me for a couple of reasons.
- Because this principle is at the core of breathwork
- Because this is what is practiced by doing ice baths and cold exposure
- Because I often catch myself reacting instead of responding
Even with a solid breathwork practice and work with cold exposure, I still find myself having to actively work on this vital statement.
Over the past week, I have found myself building up an unnecessary story about a situation at work that is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. In the long run, this situation works in my favor in many ways.
I started a new job less than two weeks ago. One of the things I had mentioned I was anxious about was what to wear because I’ve never had a job where business casual was the attire, and my wardrobe consisted solely of jeans, leggings, and t-shirts. They offered great suggestions to get me going and I went shopping for new work clothes. It was fun! I actually feel a little fancy, and for this low-maintenance babe, it has been quite a treat!
Well, two days ago it was announced that we would be transitioning from our business casual attire to uniform.
You mean a week after I went out and spent a bunch of time and money updating my wardrobe? Now you tell me I can wear my jeans to work? The very thing I expressed anxiety over last week?
You couldn’t mention the switchover coming 7 days later? You couldn’t suggest I start with one new pair of pants because change was on the way?
Clearly, I am agitated by the change. But here’s the thing. I actually don’t mind uniforms at all. The idea of not having to think about my clothes is awesome! And I can wear my jeans, so that rules. Bonus and bonus!
You can feel my frustration in this example; spending time purchasing new clothes that I now have little to no use for and I’ve worn just about all of them once in the last week and a half. Tags are off and it’s a mild inconvenience. When they told us at the all-staff meeting I took it personally. I began to ruminate on how terrible this company was being managed and how poor communication is.
I realized whoa!
Is this really how I’m going to respond?
And then this quote came through in my email to hit me in the face and remind me of why I do the work that I do.
I don’t want to react. I don’t feel good getting wrapped into a frenzy over something out of my control–something that I am actually happy about.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Have you ever gotten upset because you weren’t invited to an event you didn’t want to go to?
Do you ever find yourself filling empty space with an argument over nothing in your head? Having imaginary conversations about what you would say to your boss, family member or friend who you are making out to be the bad guy.
Maybe you’re guilty of complaining about something as silly as the weather. (As though the weather has anything to do with you at all.)
What if instead you learned to accept the flow of life and matched your thinking patterns to a more pliable nature?
Instead of, It always rains on my day off, you thought, Oh good, we needed this rain.
Viewing your life and surroundings through this lens can have a profound effect on your life.
Moving from Reacting to Responding
This sounds simple, but it’s not always easy. Working on adopting new and healthier ways of thinking sounds simple, but the key is to catch yourself in the moment and make the decision to move from reacting to responding.
Right now, as you read this it seems simple enough, but you’ll find it becomes much harder in the moment.
Because your emotions are involved.
When your thoughts have been triggered into a story about what’s happening in the world around you, you feel it emotionally. You are used to reacting from the ego and your mind becomes busy plotting revenge or feeling sorry for yourself. These triggering emotions are highly addictive AND it’s how you’ve allowed your mind to react for so long that it feels normal and natural.
Choosing to jump off of a highly charged emotional ego-based story is tough! Your mind will acknowledge that you are creating a fabricated story, but it won’t want to stop. It feels too good. Even if it feels awful, it’s giving you a huge dopamine drip of feelings that validate your ego.
With practice, you can train your brain to stop the story before it spirals. You can use breathing practices to calm your thoughts and bring you into the present moment. Then you can look at what’s happening in your life and respond from a clear mind. You choose how you want to show up in this moment.
It does take work at first. After a while, it will become easier and this right thinking will begin to bleed into other areas of your life and more and more positive change will appear all around you.
Mastering Your Life
In order to become a master of your life you must learn this one skill…
You must be willing to move from a reactive mindset and start showing up in a more responsive way.
Stop fueling your energy towards stories and events that you can’t change or that have little to nothing to do with you.
The fastest way to do this is to slow down, connect with your breath, and learn to accept what is.
There is a term used widely in AA meeting that I heard and love; “Acceptance is the key to all things”
Acceptance helps us to surrender to what is and know that it could be no other way. This step alone helps us to respond in more healthy ways.
The next time you find yourself quickly reacting to new information, jump as fast as you can out of the story you are creating, and start to bring yourself into acceptance with slow mindful breaths deep into your belly. Then from a more focused mind, you can respond accordingly.
Looking for assistance as you start this process? Join Breath Mindset! This 4-week, self-led course will set you up with all the tools for success!