Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“Wisdom tells me I am nothing, love tells me I am everything, between the two my life flows."-Nisargadatta Maharaj

This quote sits on top of my desk and I use it to anchor me in awareness and appreciation.  Awareness because I have probably only scratched the surface of life’s meaning and this helps me to stay humble and to stay open to receiving life's lessons.  And appreciation because in love, everything just is. 

While we all dance back and forth between the continuum of experiencing a huge sense of self to questioning the value of our existence or ability to contribute, the reality is that just because our perception of our own worth and value may fluctuate, our actual pool of potential and possibility stays constant. The only thing that really changes in relation to our perceptions is our ability to access this potential and possibility. Can you recall difficult and emotional conversations you have had where you communicated from that place of balance that exists between self confidence and an overbearing ego?
Those conversations where, rather than reacting to what was being said specifically (an ego response) you chose to respond from a place of your own personal integrity? The ICA (www.icoachacademy.com) class notes for PT105: Responding vs. Reacting define reaction as coming “from somewhere in the past, and is powerless…because the response is sometimes devoid of ‘a worthy action’…and can often perpetuate a problem or enlarge a complaint, and can even tear down a relationship rather than build it up.” The class notes go on to describe responding as “an act of freedom and consequently has power within it. Response creates an opportunity and is in alignment with your commitments…involves the ability to respond with a sense of duty and trustworthiness.”
The strongest example of a time I made a transition from reacting to responding was while I worked as a Katimavik Project Leader, a youth service learning program for Canadian youth aged 17 to 21(www.katimavik.org).  Living with and managing three different groups of 11 youth from across Canada over 7 months was certainly an adventure and a learning experience.  

One of the most humbling experiences was the realization that when confronted with disorder or rule-breaking behaviour by the participants, I tended to react like an old school authoritarian; from anger, a deep sense of offence, and  a sheer place of ego that rarely resulted in forward movement; essentially, I was reacting like my father! Something I promised myself I would never do! I committed early on to giving myself time between learning about the particular misdeed and having the discussion with the participant and determining the consequence of the behaviour (as long as it was not life-threatening or time sensitive). I did this because I wanted to allow myself to process the initial ego-based anger that I was experiencing, and to move to a response that would generate learning for the participant, an understanding of consequences, and hopefully a change in behaviour. It worked much better for all parties involved. I had a good laugh when months later, after the program was complete, participants  told me that my process of “we’ll talk about it in the morning” actually freaked them out more than getting an instant reaction to what had happened. If only they knew how much worse the alternative would have been!

Is there anything happening in your life right now that you would rather respond to than react to? 
How would the altered response affect the outcome? What is preventing you from doing so?

Drop me a line at leena@elationstatecoaching.com if you want to share the experience! I love to hear from readers!

Originally posted on March 12, 2008 at 1:22 pm

1 comment:

  1. i love that quote. it reminds me of this one that i love as well:

    A possibility was born the day you were born, and it will live for as long as you live - Marcus Solero

    There are lots of things in my life that I would love to respond rather than react to. And funny enough, I've learned some of this from my current job (all thanks to my amazing former boss Vy!). I think the biggest difference is, like you've mentioned above, responding enables you to action on something. Whereas reacting, because it's based in the past, only seems to perpetuate the problem/issue.

    great post!