In the wake of the recent controversy surrounding Jeremy Clarkson's penchant for delivering a knuckle sandwich on discovering that he himself would not be taking receipt of a well earned steak, (Hark do I hear the sound of irony?) it re-ignited in me an itch that need some immediate scratching.
The itch in question relates to my ever-increasing realisation that more and more adults (and I use that term here loosely!!) have little or no self-awareness of their actions and the repercussions of those actions. The greater picture apparently needs no looking at as the desire for some kind of immediate gratification is preferred, whatever the cost.
Take a look at the two words react & respond and if you can, have a quick discussion with either someone nearby (or one of the voices in your head) as to whether there is any difference between their meanings.
Although at first glance there may not appear to be too much difference between these seemingly innocuous words, there is in fact a major difference and being mindful when we react or respond to situations can have a huge impact on the outcomes and our overall happiness.
Reacting to situations suggests that there is an emotional attachment and with that a certain loss of control, that means we are probably not operating at our optimum capacity for brilliance (this is why we never say anything clever in an argument!!)
Responding to a situation tends to suggest that we have given more time to thinking through our options and consider them before taking any action.
Whilst committing these thoughts to my keyboard I was reminded of a pneumonic I used to deploy in many of my sessions that was simple but very effective in helping people to be less reactive and more responsive.
The mnemonic was S.T.A.R.
STOP – Sometimes we may find ourselves in situations where we don't have the answers or indeed know what to do next but having the capacity to stop, take a step back, look outside of ourselves and just for a moment attempt to envision the bigger picture can open up a whole world of opportunities, that may not be available to us if we have 'Lost it'. This stopping can be a simple as taking a few deep breaths or perhaps leaving the heat of the situation for a couple of minutes in order to take stock.
THINK – When we are stressed out, anxious, fearful, threatened or just plain tired out our brain releases naturally occurring chemicals called GABA (gamma amino Butyric Acid) this chemical suppresses our neo cortex's ability to think leaving us more often than not blank as to what to do next. It is a survival mechanism that then invokes the Fight, Flight, Flock or Freeze response. Meaning, we react to a situation by either fighting with it , running away from it, getting together with like minded people so we can somehow justify our reaction to it or we simply freeze.
Having the ability to first stop and then actively think through our options means we will, more often than not, makebetter more positive decisions.
ACT – Once we've had time to think through the options available and the impact our choices may have further down the line then we are free to act on them and see where it takes us. Here it is worth noting the 3 areas to consider when making a decision about what to do.
1 – How will this impact positively/negatively on ourselves?
2 – How will this impact positively/negatively on others?
3 – how will this impact positively/negatively on the environment you find yourselves in?
REFLECT – Once we have made a choice to act on our thoughts it is always important to reflect upon those actions and consider if it work/ achieved the desired outcome and if not what could we do next time to improve the outcome.
Just think if Clarkson had simply stopped for a moment, taken a breath, thought about how ridiculous the situation was, that he was in, suggested getting a Dominoes pizza and gone to bed full and slightly more smug than usual in the knowledge that a massive crisis had been averted,he'd still have a job, I'd have something to watch on a Sunday night and a twenty something TV producer would be swelling with pride not throbbing in agony.
Maybe it's time to put S.T.A.R. in a reasonably priced car!!