I think this reflects well about what is going on right now and what we can do to help how we react to it.
“You are responsible for all of your experiences of life.”
What do you think? True or false?
Most people quickly say it is false. They argue that they don’t cause everything that happens to them. This is certainly true. All kinds of things happen to you in life that you don’t cause. However, this statement is absolutely true. You are responsible for all of your experiences of life.
Now, this is a bit of a trick. Notice, the statement says “of life” and not “in life.” You are not responsible for everything that happens to you (although often you may contribute to it.) Many things happen to you (both good and bad) over which you have no control. A tornado, a flood, the ups and downs of the stock market. These events are your experiences in life. How you react to them are your experiences OF life. You always control your experiences OF life.
Let’s look at how this works.
Life seems to have two steps.
Step One is that “Life acts.” This simply means that something happens in life. Let’s call it X. Event X happens and X can be anything. You might get married, get divorced, be fired, get promoted, or win the lottery. Once Life Acts, once something happens, then it is your turn.
Step two is “You react.” You react to whatever has happened with response Y. Y is both an emotional reaction (you feel happy, angry, sad, or frustrated) and a behavioral reaction. You do something. You act in a certain way such as laughing, crying, jumping for joy, or punching the wall.
Viewed from a distance it appears that event X caused reaction Y. So, if your boss criticizes your report, you might get angry and throw it in the wastebasket. Later, you may actually tell someone that your boss made you mad.
You are angry
So, it appears that Life acts and You react. This is the way life seems to work.
In reality life works in three steps.
Step One. Life acts. Your boss criticizes your report.
Step Two. You think about what happened. What your boss said. You start thinking; “He is always picking on me. It’s horrible. It’s terrible. I can’t stand it.”
And Step Three, you react with anger and tear up the report.
Always out to get me.
You are angry.
You have now created your own reaction with what you have been telling yourself.
You do have other choices. You could think, “Great, now I can correct it before staff meeting.” You would feel a sense of relief and get busy with the corrections.
Great! Now I can correct it.
You feel relieved.
Between life’s action and your reaction there is something you have to do in order to have any reaction at all. First, you learn that something has happened and then you think about it. In thinking about it you tell yourself what it means and thus create your reaction.
Once you become aware that something has happened, the Voice of Conscience speaks up and tells you what it means. The Voice of Conscience is that “little voice” that talks to you. You know the one I mean? It often speaks up when you look into the mirror or get on the scales. It can say how wonderful you look or how out of shape you are. The Voice can be positive or negative.
It is you talking to you. It is you telling yourself about life. This Voice of Conscience can talk you into a lot of trouble or it can create a positive outlook that changes your life experience.
Learn to listen to the Voice of Conscience and catch it when it is talking nonsense. Catch it when it is being overly critical. Catch it when it is over-reacting. When it is making things worse than they are. Change the nature of this inner dialogue and life will go better. Control your reactions to life by monitoring your thinking.
Learn to think realistically about life. Life will give you enough trouble. Don’t make it worse than it is.
Be sure to remember:
Life acts; You react; but in between you think.
Choose your reaction by choosing what you think.
Pay attention to your inner dialogue. How you talk to yourself is important. Be sure you are talking sensibly.
Take responsibility for your thinking.
Make a choice.
Make life go better.
©1999 Daniel H. Johnston. All Rights Reserved