Life is filled with moments that test our patience and provoke emotional reactions.
But when we let our emotions determine our reactions, we give up our freedom to be who we want to be.
While it’s natural and normal to feel a range of emotions, it’s equally essential to recognize that we have the power to choose how we respond to our feelings.
In this article, we’ll explore the concept of having power over your own reactions, regardless of the circumstances or emotions involved. We’ll discuss strategies to help you become the person you want to be in any situation, maintaining control over your responses.
The Power of Choice
One of the most profound realizations in life is that we have the power to choose our responses, even in the face of strong emotions.
Just because you feel angry, sad, or frustrated doesn’t mean you have to act on those feelings impulsively.
By acknowledging this choice, you can regain control over your reactions and align them with the person you want to become.
Let’s look at my client, “Laura,” as an example. When Laura started coaching with me, she was consistently reacting with anger whenever her colleague criticized her work. She would feel offended and defensively argue back, creating a tense relationship and an unpleasant work environment. She wanted to change this.
As we started coaching on this, Laura decided and learned how to take control of her reactions. Instead of immediately reacting with anger, she paused and took a deep breath when her colleague criticized her work. And then, she purposely responded the way she wanted to, which included asking for clarification to better understand the feedback.
By choosing empathy and understanding, Laura found that her colleague’s intentions were to help her improve. She responded with gratitude for the feedback and showed a willingness to learn from it. Over time, her relationships at work improved, and she no longer reacted impulsively but with composure and grace. She gave herself the freedom to be who she wanted to be.
Reacting without thinking often leads to feelings of powerlessness and victimization.
It’s easy to blame circumstances or others for our emotional responses, but this mindset limits our personal growth and relationships.
To move beyond victimhood, consider these strategies:
- Self-awareness: The first step in gaining control over your reactions is self-awareness. Take the time to identify your emotional triggers and patterns. Understand what situations or thoughts tend to provoke certain reactions.
- Pause and breathe: When faced with a strong emotion, take a moment to pause and breathe. This simple act can create space between the emotion and your response, allowing you to choose a more constructive reaction.
- Choose your emotion — emotions like curiosity, empathy, and understanding are great places to start. Instead of responding to whatever emotion happens automatically (at least it feels that way), choose your emotion on purpose. Install a switch in your brain that you can reach up and switch anytime you want to. From judgment to curiosity. From anger to understanding. From frustration to compassion.
- Perspective shift: Challenge your automatic thoughts and beliefs. Ask yourself if your reaction aligns with the person you want to be. Consider alternative perspectives and responses that better serve your goals. Ask yourself what else could be true. Try to see the situation from another person’s point of view.
- Practice self-regulation: Develop emotional self-regulation techniques to bring yourself back into balance. Ideas include mindfulness, meditation, qigong, walking, etc. Find ways to regulate your nervous system and practice them consistently so you can more easily regulate your system at the moment, and then choose calm and collected responses.
Becoming the Person You Want to Be
To show up as the person you want to be in any situation, regardless of the circumstances or emotions, consider these steps:
- Define your values: Clearly articulate your core values and beliefs. Knowing what is most important to you can help guide your behavior and reactions.
- Set intentions: Before entering challenging situations, set an intention for how you want to show up. Whether it’s patience, empathy, or assertiveness, having a clear intention can guide your actions.
- Practice emotional intelligence: Develop your emotional intelligence by becoming more aware of your emotions and how they influence your behavior. This awareness will empower you to make conscious choices.
- Talk back to your brain: Don’t just listen to everything your brain offers you. Talk back. Yes, Brain, I hear you. Thank you for your opinion, but I’ve decided to believe/do X. Be the adult. Manage the toddler (that lives in your brain).
- Practice patience and grace: Our brains love to do things the same way over and over again because it saves energy, which keeps us alive. If you’ve reacted this way many times in the past, your brain will want to react the same way again in the future. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to rewire your brain. And give yourself grace when you aren’t able to do it the way you want to. It’s all ok.
Questions To Consider
- Where do you notice yourself reacting rather than responding?
- Why do you think you choose to react to your emotions in this situation?
- What would it take to respond instead of react?
- How might this give you more freedom in your life?
You have the power to control your reactions and become the person you want to be, even in the most emotionally charged situations.
By recognizing your choices and avoiding the victim mentality, you can take control of your responses, align them with your values, and foster healthier relationships.
Remember, true strength lies not in reacting impulsively but in responding thoughtfully and intentionally.
Embrace this power, and you’ll see positive changes in your life and the way you show up in the world.
You will have the freedom to be who you want to be.
Live Free. Love Life.