Learning to Respond
Did you know there is a real difference between a reaction and a response?
Think about when you go to the doctor, and he first puts you on medication to treat an ailment. You come back for a follow up appointment, and at that return visit things usually go one of two ways: either you are told "your body is reacting to the medication, so we are going to have to change it and see if we can get a different result" or "your body is responding well to the medication, I think we will keep you on it".
For me, personal development is the medication. It is allowing me to respond in life, as opposed to react to life.
Here's a couple of prime examples for you from my life:
Two years ago, I met with a dear friend in Huntington Beach. I had been a year clean and sober, and she needed help. I gave her some personal advice, which she declared to be life changing. She called me "the Buddha" as I was living such a clean and spiritual way of life. I walked out of there on cloud nine, having helped an old friend and been so appreciated.
No more than ten minutes later, I was on the freeway and a guy jumped his car in front of me, slammed on his brakes, and started an aggressive encounter. Well, that was enough for me. It was on. Moments later, I was acting just as bad, pulling alongside, in front, back alongside, braking, flashing headlights, rolling down my window, trying my hardest to get him to pull over.
Well thank god he did not! One more screw up and it would have been a life sentence for me. I was a third striker, I was on my last chance, and not only that, I was supposedly living a new way of life!
But that there is the battle. Self-improvement is not an immediate process. There is no magic quick-fix. All the flaws and characteristics I built into my way of life to deal with life - coming from prison, always having to react in an extreme manner to survive - create a battle every single day for me to build and maintain a better me.
A few days ago, I was coming home from Jiu Jitsu training, it was late at night, and I was on the freeway once again. Soon after I make a turn, a guy pulled up next to me, honking his horn, flipping me off, and getting my attention. I start wondering do I know this guy? Is he joking around with me? Is he an old friend? So I rolled down the window. The barrage that followed was quite comical. Starting with "use your F*$%ing blinker" and ending eventually with "are you autistic?".
In that moment, instinctively, every fiber of my body wanted to react. Retorts such as "how bad do you wanna find out?" / "let's ask your mom" / "pull over I'll show you" and all kinds of different things ran through my mind. Then, I envisioned the phonecall home to my girl from prison, asking her to tell my mom and my business Partner that I won't be out soon, in fact possibly ever, because I got into a violent situation and now have to fight a life case once again, due to a stupid reaction of mine because I didn't have the sense, or spiritual wherewithal, or maturity, to think before responding.
So, as I looked back at the guy who was waiting for my response, I said "as a matter of fact, I am" ... and I rolled up my window, and I kept on rolling.
Sure, I have martial arts training, and could maybe have ended it swiftly. Or maybe he would have had a gun. Or maybe cops would have been on the scene and arrested us both before events unfolded. However none of those scenarios had to happen, thankfully, as I had the presence and aforethought, and the personal development, that admittedly I had not had those two years previously.
It has taken three years of working on my personal awareness to get to the point I am now. Maybe in another three, I won't even feel the need to respond at all, or maybe I won't even notice another driver flipping me off. Who knows. What I do know is, Personal Awareness Training Helps! The process works, if you keep working at it. Don't expect instant success, but make sure to recognise the small successes along the way. There will be some!