Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, Reacting vs Responding, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Be Mindful: Respond rather than React

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is power to choose our response” – Viktor Frankl

No doubt all of us, including me, have reacted at times in our lives when we should have responded.  Upon reflection, we can often identify those events based on how we felt afterwards. We may have wished we hadn’t said something, or chosen a different tone, or had simply removed ourselves from the situation until we knew how to respond well.  As adults, we all know the right thing to do.  Yet, often our emotions get the best of us and we react – at work, at home, in the car, on social media, etc.  Until we are shown, taught, or learn something different, we often don’t know how to control our reactions, or even recognize our behaviour.  

So what is the difference between reacting vs responding?

A reaction is instinctive, based in the moment and doesn’t take the long term effects of what we do or say into consideration. While reacting in an emergency involving life and death where your survival is at stake is important, it’s when we react in everyday situations that we damage our relationships, and potential for a positive outcome.  A reaction is typically quick, tense and aggressive, while a response is thoughtful, calm and non-threatening.  A reaction typically provokes and perpetuates negative reactions.

When we react, we aren’t choosing.  Rather we are allowing our reptilian (or instinctual brain), the oldest part of our brain, to take control. The reptilian brain is all about survival: movement, breathing, circulation, hunger and reproduction, territory, and social dominance. A reaction uses our reptilian brain, which is survival-oriented.  Based on what your emotions trigger you to do, you act without really thinking through the consequences.  This might turn out okay but often a reaction is something you regret later. When we choose to simply react to what occurs in our lives, we often behave defensively, such as bating or taking revenge, blame, scapegoating, etc.  Stephen Covey defines the difference between reactive and responsive individuals as follows: “Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.” 

“Respond don’t react.  When you react to a person’s negative comments or actions in an angry, overly emotional or aggressive way, then you are giving that person power over you.  If a person can easily get a rise from you, then you are no longer in control.  If you take a moment and respond in a calm, healthy, honest and real way, then you are in control.  You are not allowing anyone to take your power away, or invoke a reaction from you.” Maria Consiglio

A reaction is usually quick and typically:

  • involves the reptilian/instinctual and the limbic/emotional brain.
  • is emotional.
  • involves speaking without thinking.
  • is often tense and aggressive.
  • creates conflict.
  • perpetuates discontentment and disagreement.
  • others are in control.

However, as highly evolved mammals, we have three brains: the reptilian brain or survival-oriented brain; the emotional or limbic brain; and the neocortex brain.  While our limbic/emotional brain is highly reactive and subconsciously involves our emotions and feelings, the neocortex is the thinking part of the brain, and where we have the capability to respond rather than react derives itself.  

It is the neocortex where we develop thoughtful responses.   This is where we gather and digest the necessary information, where we decipher what we are seeing and feeling, and where we put it into context. It’s future-focused, and where we understand the world so we are capable of making sound decisions.  It is why when thinking about how you might respond in a more mindful fashion, you can plan your future responses and strengthen your ability to take action that is in your best interest.

A response is a conscious decision that usually comes more slowly, and:

  • involves your neocortex or rational brain.
  • isn’t based on your emotional trigger.
  • involves acting by really thinking through consequences.
  • it includes a plan for future responses.
  • it’s non-threatening.
  • it takes time.
  • allows for assertiveness without aggression.
  • resolves conflict.
  • you are in control of your life.

While it’s not always easy to know how to respond best in every situation, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent help tremendously (topics I’ve discussed in my earlier posts). Like self-awareness and emotional intelligence, knowing how respond is a skill that can be developed.  When we know first-hand the negative experience that can result from reacting, we are far more motivated to make sure we respond in a similar situation.  It takes practice and requires us to be able to pause in nearly any situation before speaking or acting. 

To achieve our full potential, and become more successful both personally, and professionally, we need to be more aware of, and have more influence over our responses.  From recent brain research, we know that our brains are plastic and has the ability to develop connections with the other parts.   According to Dr. Bill Crawford, a psychologist who studies the brain, and concepts of responding and reacting, our brains are constantly rewiring with every thought, emotion, and/or behavior. He says that “when we respond to life in a way that is more effective… the brain creates and reinforces neural pathways from our limbic system up to our neocortex”.

How Mindfulness helps reprogram your brain

“Mindfulness give you time. Time give you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.” – Bhante H. Gunaratana

Your thoughts (beliefs) create your feelings; your feelings create your actions; your actions create your results.  Mindfulness is awareness of what is happening in the present moment, including awareness of thoughts, without any attachment to whatever you notice.  Mindfulness is helpful because it creates space between thoughts and actions.  By increasing your awareness of your thoughts, you can begin to break old automatic or habitual chain reactions between your triggers, thoughts, feelings and actions.  Each time you choose to not to activate your old trigger-thought-feeling-action-result sequence, you weaken the connections.  Furthermore, each time you choose a different action, you program new connections.  With repetition and practice, you hardwire these new programs so your new thoughts and responses become your new habits.

When we respond to life, we:

  • become the directors, rather than the followers
  • establish stronger relationships
  • become better communicators
  • minimize confrontations
  • find more peace
  • reduce regret
  • build a confidence that we can handle any situation we come up against
  • we thrive!

In essence, when choosing to respond versus react, you are taking charge of your life.  Choosing to be responsive is taking responsibility of our lives. Recognizing the power of our words, our behavior, our tone, our delivery, etc. will make a positive difference to those in our lives. 

“Instead of asking others to change their behaviour, your power is in your changing your reaction to their behaviour.  You have no control over their behaviour, but you do have complete control over your reaction to it.” – Abraham Hicks

How you can build a response habit:

Think of a time or situation that always causes conflict for you.  What are the things you tell yourself about the situation? How do you usually react to it? Record your answers. 

Practice responding to challenging situations until these responses become reactions.

Each time you enter into a situation that you know tends to cause you to react, take a few minutes to write down how you normally react and how you want to respond instead.  What will it look like? What will you say differently? How will you act differently?

MBTI, Personality, Striving Styles

Will your (MBTI) personality type determine your success?

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“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden

The short answer is no. There is not one particular Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality type that is directly correlated to successful outcomes.  No one type is better than another and each type have their own unique strengths, weaknesses and gifts. For example, an INTJ is not any more likely to be successful than an ESFP.  In addition, there is so much more to you than your type such as your upbringing environment, your unique tastes and traits that make you a unique individual.  No matter what personality type we are born with, we all have the ability to be successful.   While success is somewhat subjective to the individual, I think it’s described best as those who achieve their goals or live in alignment with their life vision and values.

So what does determine your success?  Ultimately, it is your habits, mindset, and utilizing the capabilities of your full brain that will determine your success.

That said, knowing and understanding your personality type, your strengths, your preferred working styles, will absolutely contribute to your personal and professional success.  While on its own it, knowing your type won’t impact success or performance outcomes, it is a key first step in developing self-awareness which is an important and foundational factor related to your overall success.

One of the most beneficial outcomes of learning about personality type is you will feel understood.  It will also help you improve relationships and become a better communicator with people who process things differently than you do, and reduce conflict both at home and at work.

Your MBTI describes your unique characteristics, how you process information, your preferences, and how you interact with the world.  Each personality type has a dominant mental process and an inferior mental process, and everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites.  Our inferior processes tend to be the sources of many of our weaknesses and embarrassments while our dominant processes tend to be easier for us to master and use effectively.   The best way to explains this is that we all have a preferred hand to write with which is easier for us, but that doesn’t mean we never use the other hand.  For example, if you’re right-handed and you suddenly try to switch to writing with your left hand you could do it, but it would take a log more time and it would look a lot sloppier.

Here is a brief explanation of the MBTI:

  • There are four MBTI dichotomies:
    • Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E) describes where you get your energy. Extroverts gain energy from interaction with the outside world while Introverts gain energy from pondering their thoughts
    • Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S) describes how you gather information. Intuitives focus on the abstract, theoretical, and “unseen” while Sensors focus on the concrete, literal, and real details of the world around them and their experience with it.
    • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) describes how you make decisions. Thinking types “step outside” of a decision to consider the logic, pros and cons, and the truth of a situation. Feeling types “step inside” a decision to consider how it will impact the people involved, whether harmony will be maintained, and whether the decisions aligns with their values
    • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) describes how you interact with the outside world. Judging types like to have a schedule and a plan. They like to get all their work done before “playing”.  Perceiving types like to mix work and play, and have an open-ended, spontaneous schedule. They like to stay open for new opportunities and inspiration.
  • Everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites on each of the four dichotomies.
  • They describe preferences
  • There is no right or wrong
  • You use all 8 of the preferences, but you prefer four
  • Sometimes how we are at home, at work, alter our personalities to fit that environment.

*Contact me if you would like to know your MBTI personality type

While understanding your personality type is incredibly insightful in knowing our strengths and development areas, this alone will not help you achieve your goals, or ultimately determine your success.  It is learning what to do with that knowledge, and how to go about making changes in our life so we can live more fully that will make us successful.

Learning how to utilize and develop your “full” brain, while uncovering and replacing your old stories and habits of mind that no longer serve you with those that are more in line with supporting your best selves, starts first with self-awareness.  However, this is just the first step because then we need to “do the work”.  This is the hard stuff.

This is why I think the Striving Styles Personality System (SSPS) is so incredibly effective and offers a more comprehensive development process.  It provides a systematic approach to building self-awareness and emotional intelligence for those who want to achieve personal goals and reach their full potential.

The SSPS is an evolution of Carl Jung’s research on personality type and the MBTI.  While I have extensively used and worked with the MBTI in organizations, and still believe the MBTI is a very effective tool  when integrated into leadership and employee development programs, for improving teams, coaching individuals, and career planning, it doesn’t identify what is getting in the way of achieving our potential.

The SSPS development process helps us to examine our mindset and uncovers those negative habits of mind, including your shadow fears, beliefs, and triggers, that ultimately undermine your efforts, ambitions and potential.  It helps us understand how our brains are organized and hardwired, as well as the specific needs and emotions that drive your behaviour.  It helps identify behavioural patterns we developed as children that no longer serve us.  It offers a deeper understanding of your predominant style, your major psychological needs and fears that are associated with your style, and your associate styles, so you can look at some of the things that might be getting in YOUR way of achieving your potential.

The SSPS is a development tool that offers a way of understanding ourselves, which helps us be able to answer the questions “who are we meant to be?” and what is it that is getting in the way of achieving our full potential.

Your success will be determined by getting clear on what you want in your life and how you want to show up for yourself and others, by valuing your unique strengths and your quirks, and by developing good habits, and developing a positive mindset.  As usual, I like Maya Angelou definition of success:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

As a bonus, here are some other factors will determine your success:

  • Have a growth mindset, defined by Carol Dweck as “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
  • Get clear on what you want in your life and what does it looks like (1 year, 5 years, 10 years). Your vision statement should describe where you are going to be, and the values you will use to get you there.
  • Know your “why” of your vision because it is your ultimate motivator and is the one the thing that will inspire you and those around you.
  • Utilize meta-habits, or those foundational habits that enhance your ability to adopt other habits, such as exercise, self-knowledge, meditation, quality sleep, etc.
  • Believe that you have self-determination, the belief that you have control over your choices and your life.
Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles

Discovering our je ne sais quoi

” I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself” – Emma Stone

Inspired by a recent group of my workshop participants, as well as my upcoming trip to Paris, France with my teenage daughter, promoted me to read and reflect on the phrase “je ne sais quoi”, a phrase often used to describe French or Parisian women.  I read recently that we spend the first half of our life trying to fit in, while the second half we spend trying to stand out.  Inspiring, nurturing, and encouraging our children to have the confidence and independence to fully embrace their unique whole selves and live fully, especially during this first half of their lives, is my deepest desire for them.  I think the best way to do this is to do our best and model it for them.  I couldn’t agree more with the following quote:

“Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids” – Lenny Lemons

Here’s what I found that best describes someone who embodies “je ne sais quoi”:

  • Nurtures her internal well-being as much as her external beauty.  Life isn’t about impressing others but enjoying herself.
  • Accentuates her strengths, focusing on her unique characteristics, both physically and personality.  Owning what she has, not fixing or changing herself.  She shows up as the best version of herself.
  • Keeps her beauty natural and authentic to her unique physical characteristics.
  • She finds pleasure in healthy, quality food, indulging in moderation.
  • She uses her clothing and physical appearance as a tool to establish and represent her state of being.
  • Brings passion to everything she does, from the mundane to the big things.
  • Stops trying so hard to impress others.  It’s about being you!
  • She is self-possessed, and builds her life around knowing what she loves, what turns her on, what’s she’s passionate about.  She builds her life on inner joy and personal radiance.  Finds answers within and shares that passion with the world.
  • She simplifies her life so she has more space to strive for passionate pursuits and stress-free living.
  • She savours the moment by slowing down.
  • While she visualizes and plans her life, and where she’s going, she can let go of control and enjoy her journey. She focuses on how to presently show up in the moment.
  • She does not take life too seriously, approaching her life with a playfulness and friskiness that delights everyone she encounters.
  • She continuously learns and grows.
  • She exudes confidence, intelligence, sophistication, and style that comes from the clarity of knowing who she is!

Understanding ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, fears and underlying beliefs that get in our way to becoming our best self is fundamental in discovering our je ne sais quoi.  The “This is You” workshop and Striving Styles Personality System helps us to further dive into an understanding of our personality,  helps us to recognize our innate strengths, offers insight and understanding of ourselves and and how our unique brain works.  These are the skills needed to uncover and nurture our authentic self.  Contact me if you would like to discover your je ne sais quoi!