Are you aware of how you react?

Today is May 15 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “are you aware of how you react?” This is a challenging question because it shifts the responsibility away from the situation and onto you. It is far easier to blame the situation instead of recognizing that you have the strength, courage, and ability to create a more intentional reaction.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps suggests four strategies to use. First, envision the person you would like to be and react in the manner appropriate for that vision. Before you react, take a moment to remind yourself of the person who you want to be in that moment.

Second, think about the meaning or origin of your reactions and you might realize that other factors unrelated to the situation are impacting your reaction. We sometimes react to a situation due to emotions related to something else that happened earlier in the day.

Third, pay close attention to the results of your reactions. Ask yourself if you are aware of the consequences of your reactions. Finally, lean a more compassionate approach to yourself. As Dr. Becker-Phelps suggested “personal change takes effort and time to accomplish; being critical towards yourself will only undermine your efforts.”

Actress Mariska Hargitay worked intentionally on her reaction when she got rejected for the show ER. She prepared so well for her audition the casting agent said she was too good for the role. Instead of blaming the casting director, she leveraged her connections, did not take no for an answer, and went the extra mile to explain why she was the right actress for the role. It worked. Her work on ER helped launch Mariska’s career where she would eventually go on to star in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for over 20 seasons. She could have easily moved on to the next audition; or she could have reacted in a negative manner. Instead she tempered her reaction and in so doing altered her career trajectory.

As Brazilian author Paulo Coelho noted “Your problem isn’t the problem. Your reaction is the problem.” Navigating the chaos of life and work will demand an acceptance of this very fact – your reaction is the problem. Failure to accept such a notion will make your path that much harder to navigate.

As J. Allan Petersen wrote in Your Reactions Are Showing “The person who reacts with anger and bitterness is being controlled by the person who offended him. How often do we let people control us in our daily life? You may be surprised to learn that your reactions to the situations you face daily may say a great deal more about you than your actions say.”

How often do you recognition that your reaction to a situation is the problem more so than the situation itself?