Alternate Perceptions Magazine, August 2023
Reaction vs Taking Action
by: Stan Prachniak. MBA
Life is unpredictable. No matter how much control we may think we have over our lives or have situations planned out, things can change in an instant. And each unique situation we encounter provides us with an opportunity to either react or take action. Taken at face value, these two concepts sound very similar but they are certainly very different. When we react to situations in our lives, we are immediately acting based on our personal beliefs and past experiences. On the other hand, when we take action, we generally assess a situation before acting on impulse—we have a plan based on an understanding of the situation. Let’s consider the act of road rage as a simple example of these concepts.
Envision yourself driving on a busy road approaching a traffic light that has just turned red when a car speeds past you then immediately swerves right in front of you, cutting you off and causes you to slam on your brakes. Before this incident happened, you were “in control,” and would have likely seen the light turn red and been preparing to stop. You weren’t planning on being cut off and having to avoid a potential accident, so what just occurred was essentially unpredictable and out of your control.
A possible reaction to this situation is immediate anger or other types of emotional response. You might direct some choice words toward the driver of the vehicle that cut you off, or even make gestures toward them. But where would these have actions come from? They didn’t just come about because of this instance. If you were to react in the ways mentioned above, then you would have been acting based on your beliefs about the situation. You would have likely taken the incident personally, thinking something along the lines of, “I can’t believe that he just did that to me!” If you reacted by calling the driver an idiot or some other derogatory word, this likely came from past experience you had. Maybe you heard you mother or father say the same thing in a similar situation, so you now have the belief that anyone who makes a mistake while driving is an “idiot.” Reacting in such a way has the potential to adversely affect your life, so it’s usually best to take a step back and rethink the situation.
Though you can’t control what just happened, you can control how you handle the situation. Chances are the person didn’t single out you and your vehicle and say, “I’m going to cut that person off and see how mad they get.” This is where you have the opportunity to decide to take action rather than react. Your first step in taking action is to assess the situation. You can do this by asking yourself things like, “Am I okay?” or “Am I in any immediate danger?” Once you have done this and confirmed that the answer is “no,” you should then challenge your beliefs about the situation. An easy way to do this is to take a deep breath and remove any personal feelings you may have about the incident. Start with asking yourself something like, “Do I really believe that person did this to me on purpose, or is there another reason this happened?” You could even take this a step further and come up with a logical explanation for what they did (whether it’s true or not is irrelevant). Once you believe that this incident wasn’t a purposeful attack targeting you, you can begin to let it go and move on with your day. By choosing to take action and thoughtfully assess the situation, you have taken control of the one thing you can control—what you do. Freedom To Change offers a way for you to take action in your life and learn to control what you can and let the rest go. For more information on the Freedom2Change materials, visit www.freedom2change.org.