React? Respond? Or Create?

“Experience is not what happens to you. 
Experience is what you do with what happens to you.”

— Aldous Huxley

Some of us react. We take action determined by the external stimulus and the emotions it evokes.

Some of us respond. We acknowledge the stimulus and the immediate emotions as part of current reality. Then we choose to act based on a clear sense of the result we want to create.

The first approach can be very stressful. The second, not so much.The stress doesn’t come from what happens, but from the way we respond or react to what happens.

When stressful emotions drive our actions, we’re likely to make less effective decisions that lead to ineffective results. 

But if we choose actions based on a vision of the result(s) we desire, we’re likely to make better choices. And produce more effective actions and results. 

Bonus: we generate far less stress!

So, how can we put this simple sounding advice into practice?

Try using the “Eisenhower Matrix” to determine how you want to respond to what happens.

The matrix is a simple time and priority management tool. Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower used it to determine what actions were important, rather than merely urgent.

The Eisenhower Matrix:

Say, for example, that you’re going through your day and something happens. A job or task lands on your desk or crops up in your home. Before you let your emotions drive you to react, stop. Use the matrix to determine the importance and urgency of the task (or lack thereof). Then choose how to proceed. 

When we react, we tend to focus on the “urgent and important” field, on things that we have to deal with immediately. If we do this too much, we’ll never get any of the “important, but not urgent” stuff done. This is the rich, juicy stuff we want to do but don’t, because we’re too busy reacting to urgent but not important stuff.

So, before you take action on a task, or external stimulus, ask yourself these questions: 

  • How will I stop reacting to urgent but unimportant tasks?
  • When will I deal with the things that are important andurgent?
  • When will I deal with the things that are important, but not urgent?
  • When will I take the time to deal with important tasks before they become urgent? 

Decide when to do important things — then do them.

Doing so will turbocharge your effectiveness. And lower your stress levels. Win-win.