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How Do You Respond Rather Than React

In my work with leadership teams and developing young leadership talent, it is true that those who experience the greatest growth and success are the individuals that commit to the process. A decision without a commitment can often end in less than optimal results or even failure. (More about decision vs. commitment).

Many of my clients are CEOs and senior-level leaders. They live in a world of incredible pressure to reach their goals with market challenges and internal conflicts flying at them at great speed. In this fast-paced business environment, it is easy and even understandable to take a reactive approach. But as all great leaders (and great parents and great teachers) learn, it is always better to respond than react.

Learn to Respond rather than React

A decision can be made in a split second, as an immediate reaction to a particular situation. Commitment is a considered response rather than an immediate reaction, and requires our continued vigilance and energy. A decision takes place in a moment in time while a commitment consists of many consistent decisions over time.

Sounds simple, but how does it work?

Train Yourself to Respond Rather Than React

  1. First, you need to commit to responding and not reacting. (Remember, a commitment consists of many consistent decisions over time.)
  2. Try to become aware of those times when you are responding, and when you are reacting. Make a point of keeping score.
  3. When you start your day, promise yourself to be in the moment and look for every opportunity to respond rather than react.
  4. Try to heighten your awareness of the ways in which reacting fails to serve you well.
  5. Become highly aware of the negative repercussions of reacting.
  6. At night, review your day. Accept whatever you did as reality. It happened and it’s okay. Don’t judge yourself for the times you reacted. Simply play back the tape of the day in your mind. If you punish yourself, you’ll lose twice. But you can turn a negative into a positive by becoming aware of when you started to react in the moment, and start to consider how you might have responded instead.
  7. Turn the trigger into a reminder. Tell yourself that whatever triggered you to react in the past can also remind you to respond in the future. Experiment by playing out a few scenarios in your head.
  8. Commit to letting that trigger be your reminder in the future.

This exercise is an excerpt from Joe Caruo’s best-selling book, The Power of Losing Control, Chapter 7: The Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom. Get the book!

(c) Joe Caruso and Caruso Leadership, 2018.

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