Updated: May 31
Are you responding, reacting or responsive?
A key challenge in this current climate is determining your next steps. This will fundamentally be made up of self-evaluating & re-prioritising everything in life based on perceived importance. Whilst many may get this right, it's the approach and action of moving forward, the next steps, that makes all the difference.
As humans we broadly have 3 approaches to what action we take next:
- Our Respond Approach: Our flight/freeze nature which is incredibly powerful, whilst it can keep us safe, it can also put us at risk!
- Our React Approach: Our emotional nature, and paradoxically can be our best friend or worst enemy. This approach is incredibly powerful and difficult to control, it needs to be mastered, not suppressed!
- Our Responsive Approach: The healthiest of the three, however it involves a part of the brain which is less powerful than the parts of the brain which create our respond and react approaches. It requires strategic and proactive planning. It empowers us to act upon, rather than be acted upon!
To be responsive we must be ready and act with intent. We do not avoid risk or opportunities and we are not suppressing emotions. We are however, planning honestly our actions to minimise all risks & maximise all opportunities, based on what we perceive as most important.
So, how can you be responsive?
You can adopt 5 strategies to help you become a more responsive person:
1. Self-Awareness: Becoming more self-aware of your values and beliefs can empower healthier thinking and behaviours. When we understand our strengths and weaknesses, when we identify our skill-gaps and growth needs, we can truly learn self-mastery. Self-mastery is not about being in perfect control of all your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, it’s about being completely aware of them and then knowing how to effect or influence them. The more self-aware you become the easier the pathway of self-mastery is to travel.
2. Confidence: Daily work on building your confidence can truly empower you to face life's adversities, even when perhaps you do not have the skills or capabilities to do so. A person that recognises confidence is internal, and works each day to 'own it!', can adopt a 'growth mindset' approach to life, where they see mistakes, "failures" or defeats purely as learning opportunities and building blocks for future success. Daily training and work on self-confidence increases your responsiveness, it empowers individuals to confront life believing that they can find a solution, or adapt appropriately to 'whatever life throws at them'.
3. Control: Intentional emotional intelligence development will empower you to be aware of and able to change not only your emotions but the emotions of others. Mindfulness is a good way to practice the art of recognising, understanding, labelling, expressing and regulating your emotions. But there are other ways to do this as well; meditation, exercise, yoga, prayer, talking, therapy and much more. Our relationship with emotions is crucial! If you can, think of one challenge in life that isn't connected to or exasperated by emotions. As we learn to take the emotion out of emotion and understand them, we can learn how to carefully put emotion back into emotion and appropriately interact with them, instead of reacting. Increasing our emotional intelligence can improve our sense of emotional control, but it can also increase our sense of life-control, not that we can ever truly control life, but we can at least feel in control despite the chaos around us.
4. Commitment: Our ability to commit and achieve can often by very subjective. For example, I can easily commit and achieve to evening meal times, because I enjoy my food and love my wife's cooking. However, committing to getting up at 5:30am might be difficult. Ultimately, what we commit to depends on the level of importance, value and priority we give it. If we truly want to make changes or achieve significant accomplishments, then we will review the importance, value and priority of those changes or desired accomplishments. Improving our ability to strategically commit, developing our understanding of how to do it and committing to a process for how we will commit and achieve, will drastically change our responsiveness. One crucial lesson to learn with this, is to find your 'best-fit' way of doing this. You can follow and learn from others, but how you change and grow with commitment will be unique to your personality. Be patient, be deliberate, be considered and be strategic.
5. Challenge: This can go hand in hand with commitment, but it can also can hand in hand with confidence and control. Fundamentally this is all about how you view challenges and opportunities. First things first; what presents as a challenge to you will not be the same for others and vice versa. We experience stress and perceive challenges uniquely as a result of our; personalities, characteristics, talents, skills, experiences, circle of influence, support systems, resources, values, beliefs and environments etc. As you can see its not straight forward! So, when you find something in particular a challenge and others are not finding it as challenging as you are, great, you just found something that makes you unique! To improve our ability to take on and manage challenges we must review our beliefs and values, we do not have to simply accept what we value and believe, we can reflect, review and adapt as much as we want.
As you choose to intentionally work on all 5 areas, you can increase your ability to be responsive. You can increase your capacity to cope, and you can create a mind to thrive in life regardless of the circumstances. Don't look at this as something that is easy, hard, boring or fun. See it as a way to have an intentional influence over the experience of your life and the quality of that life. As you effect your personality, you can optimise your mental health and emotional wellbeing which in turn can optimise your daily performance. As a result, you can thrive in life despite or even because of the things that happen, no matter what they might be.
Timothy Pattenden BSc; MSc (March 2020)