Much of what we teach at The Forte Factor is to learn how to respond, not react, to whatever life sends your way. One of the things our founder says frequently is “life is as it is. It’s what you do with the information you’re given that determines the quality of your life.”
So, now that we’re officially facing a pandemic with COVID-19, I think it’s fair to say people are reacting, not responding. Buying out stock of Purell and cleaning supplies. A reaction. Stocking up on water and toilet paper. Reaction. Rushing to the doctor for a runny nose that otherwise would never have been given a second thought. Reaction.
Let’s take a look at what the difference between response and reaction really is.
To react means to say or behave without necessarily thinking things through. Often referred to as off-the-cuff, you decide quickly what you’re going to do next. Though spontaneous behavior can be a great thing in some situations, like improv, it can prevent you from making wise choices.
A response is when you take a moment to gather meaningful information – both internally (what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling) and externally (what’s happening in the world around you). What is true? What is hype? What is sensationalism?
The power of reaction is based in a person’s inability to calmly process new information. When new information is available, the brain considers this to be “change.” Change activates the fight-flight-freeze reactions, hence the widespread panic that we’re seeing now. People slip into their natural survival tendencies.
But what if instead you took a moment to understand the situation? Taking that moment ensures you don’t get owned by the fight-flight-freeze reaction and you allow your greatest thoughts, energy and emotions to focus on what you have to deal with so you give yourself greater options and opportunities. You don’t spend your energy being worried. You use your energy to wisely solve. Imagine what life could be like and what you could accomplish if you were able to manage your emotions and your response to external factors in a meaningful way.
Have a strategy to know how to gather the right information, share accurate information and focus on keeping people safe. With this focus, you can more mindfully look at this situation and, using your calmer, wiser brain, develop a strategy to make the most or the best of whatever happens. You can’t control it, but you can wisely prepare for anything out of the ordinary. Start by stopping to gather information, work to understand the information, then create and implement a plan. We share this same guidance for both individuals/families as well as organizations.
So, as a mother to 3 little boys ages 3 and under, I’m intentionally deciding to be a “prepared aware.” I see the need to be prepared for what could happen (awareness), so I will be prepared as best as I can (my response). Using the guidance I shared with you above, my family will create and implement our plan to ensure we are aware and safe.
Today, try to be aware of when you start to feel panic. It can show up as anxiety, fear or anger, so watch for your triggers – the things that make you feel that way. Then, challenge yourself to close your eyes and count to three. This is to interrupt that noisy worried brain to get it to calm down to see what is true so you can make a better decision about what to do next.
Panic is a reaction. Prepared is a response.
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