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The day our fish died!

April 23, 2014

fish bowl[2]

“There is no right reaction. There is only your reaction.”
Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul

Jack Canfield was one of the primary influences in my life when I began my eye-opening journey of awareness and the transition into my career of being a catalyst for individuals to be their best selves and leaders of their lives.

Jack is a no-nonsense businessman and transformational author, teacher and coach. When I dove into his Success Principles book, self-study course and worked with one of his coaches, I came across a simple equation that changed my life. I share this with everyone I teach and coach, and I will share it with you today. It goes like this …

E + R = O

It stands for … EVENT + REACTION = OUTCOME.
Here’s the learning behind this:

  • Everything in our life is an EVENT (E) … every conversation, meeting, chance encounter, exercise, meal, etc.
  • How we REACT (R) to any event is completely within our control.
  • Based on our reaction, an OUTCOME (O) will result.

When we are not aware — operating unconsciously due to habit — we are not pausing (even for a few seconds) to be intentional about the outcome we desire out of all the events in our life.

Here are a few examples of how you can use this equation to help you become more aware and proactive so that you are not living out the victim energy of “All these things happen to me; I have no control!”

  • (Event) Your boss walks into your office annoyed and screaming at you. (Your Reaction) You interrupt him/her, in protection mode, and scream right back. (Outcome) The relationship between the two of you is tense and lacking respect. Nothing was accomplished, and you have a knot in your stomach the rest of the week and avoid your boss.
  • (Event) You are about to go for your everyday evening run, but you are stopped in your tracks by the president of your neighborhood association who has some important news she must share with you ‘right now’.  The conversation lags. (Reaction) You cancel your run. (Outcome) Your goal of running for 20 minutes a day for 30 days is interrupted. And, you were on a roll with your goal! You feel a bit defeated.
    • Reflection: If you had a quick moment (just a few seconds!) to confirm for yourself what you wanted the outcome of these ‘events’ to be, how might you have reacted differently?

Here’s a true, simple example of an event that took place recently. After looking back, I could have designed a better reaction and had a more positive outcome:

We purchased our beta fish, Sushi, for our daughter, who is lover of all things living! Sometimes, we call our daughter Snow White because all types of animals love her and flock to her. Sushi lasted much longer than any of us expected, and even though he was my daughter’s fish, I was the one who truly cared for him. We all loved him! So, when I realized one night — right before my daughter’s bedtime — that Sushi had passed, I didn’t even think to stop for a moment before reacting. If I had, I would have known in less than a few seconds that I shouldn’t have said anything at that time, because I knew in my heart how my daughter would react. Well, I screwed it up! The words “Sushi died” flew out of my mouth and my daughter was inconsolable. Our bedtime ritual went up in flames and she wouldn’t even sleep in her bed because of how sad she was. It was heartbreaking for me, her Mommy, who never wants to see her sad. And, none of us got much sleep that night!

Again, this is an example of a simple ‘event’ (not in my daughter’s eyes, however!), but I think you get the picture! I can say with conviction that although I still find myself reacting (we are human after all), for the most part I’m very conscious of what outcomes I desire and I’m able to change my reactions in a moments notice. My life, my health, my self-confidence, my relationships, and my energy are all the better for it!

In this process, it’s important to understand that there is no right or wrong to your reactions and the outcomes. What is powerful about using this equation is that you begin to see and feel the power behind pausing (before reacting unconsciously) and choosing how to react to ensure that you are happy (or more happy) with the outcome.

I encourage you to think about a few examples of events in your life, perhaps this week, that looking back you could have achieved a more positive outcome based on your reaction.

If you have a great example, I’d love for you to share it below. Sharing is caring (and learning)! And, if you know someone who can benefit from today’s blog, I’d love for you to share it with them!

If you want to read more on this topic, here’s a great article on Emotional Agility in the Harvard Business Review.

Wishing you a life well led,

Monique

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