Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young
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Respond vs. react

Life is 10 per cent of what happens to me and 90 per cent of how I react to it. ~ John Maxwell

It is true that we often do not have much control over what happens in our lives. We like to think we do, but things surely do not always unfold the way we would like. The ego part of our consciousness likes to make rules about how things should go our way, and how others should treat us. When events in the world, or people do not conform to egos expectations, this is seen as a problem.

Ego then either turns the frustration or disappointment inwards, becoming sad, depressed, feeling unworthy or rejected; or outwards. When turned outwards, egos reaction may be one of anger, judgment, criticism, blame, or rejection.

Given that the world is unpredictable, and others have their own agendas that do not revolve around us, egos approach could leave us feeling, angry, let down, and disappointed in, or critical of others. This could lead to a very stress-filled , conflict-laden and rather miserable existence.

If instead, we choose to create a harmonious, relaxed and peaceful existence, this can only be accomplished by either leaving the world an going to live in a monastery where we mediate all day, or else by changing the way we react to things in life.

Since the monastery option is not so practical for most of us, we need to focus instead on changing the way we react to life. We need to realize there are two sides to every story, and others will often not think or see things the way we do. We need to listen and be flexible.

We also must realize that life is not fair, and bad things happen to everyone. As much as possible we need to take those things in stride, and be grateful for what is right and good in our world. We need to differentiate between big things and small things and learn to let most of the small things go. Finally, we must always make the relationship more important than the issue. We may win on all of the issues, but lose the relationship.

If life is 90 per cent how we react to it, then changing how we react can have a major positive impact on the quality of our lives.

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