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The Power to Choose Our Response

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Creating Space Between Stimulus and Response


In life, we encounter a multitude of events and situations that have the potential to stress us or trigger emotional reactions.


Someone may say something hurtful to you that you feel is very unfair. Your initial reaction may be to defend yourself or become defensive. Emotions can run high in heated arguments, and impulsive words can make things worse. Or you feel overwhelmed by work and come home frustrated. You notice your partner hasn't done the dishes and may react angrily towards them. Stress can lead to impulsive overreactions.


These reactions often occur instinctively and can lead to impulsive decisions.

➡ However, what if I told you that there is a brief window of opportunity, a critical 90 seconds, during which your subconscious and conscious mind work together to process incoming information before you react?

This window offers us the power to choose our response, a choice that can make all the difference in our decision-making, emotional well-being, and overall life satisfaction. The key lies in creating space between the stimulus and our response. Let's explore how you can harness this power and avoid impulsive reactions.



Why Do We React Impulsively?


When confronted with a triggering event or stressor, our brains initiate an immediate biochemical reaction. This reaction is hardwired into our biology and is designed to protect us in times of danger. However, in the modern world, many of these stressors are not life-threatening, and impulsive reactions can often lead to less-than-optimal outcomes.


The Space Between Stimulus and Response


Imagine a pause button that allows you to step back and assess a situation before reacting. This pause is the space between stimulus and response. In this space, we find our power—the power to choose our response consciously. It's in our response that our growth and freedom lie.


How to Create Space and Choose Your Response


Here are some practical steps you can take to create space between stimulus and response, giving you the ability to respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively:


✔️ Deep Breathing: When you feel triggered, take a moment to breathe deeply. Inhale slowly, allowing your ribcage to expand, and focus on a strong exhale. Repeat three to five times. It calms your nervous system and provides you with clarity.


✔️ Mental Space: If possible, physically remove yourself from the situation. Stepping into another room or taking a short walk can help create mental space. It allows you to clear your mind and gain perspective.


✔️ Physical Release: Engage in a physical activity like stretching, shake your body or any form of movement that allows you to release pent-up tension. Physical movement helps to shift your energy to release tension and to feel more grounded.


By implementing these techniques, you can develop the habit of pausing before reacting. This conscious choice to create space empowers you to respond more effectively to life's challenges



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