The Choice Between the Stimulus and the Response

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The Choice Between the Stimulus and the Response

There will always be stimuli for us – whether they’re sensory, emotional, or mental. Between a stimulus and a response comes a choice. The key is how to make a choice that’s more productive, more proactive, more practical, and more prudent than other options.

  1. First consider the information available from the stimulus.
    • Is this stimulus real, based on information from your senses? If so, which senses are validating this and how urgently is a response needed? See point 2.
    • If this stimulus is not validated by your senses, see points 3-10.
  2. If the stimulus is real, as validated by your senses, consider available choices before making a response. The Amygdala and the sympathetic nervous system have you covered with the flight, fight, and freeze responses. The adrenaline and cortisol plus the stress and anxiety will help you address that stimulus. Taking a moment to consider your choices, time permitting, might help you better optimize your response to this ‘real’ stimulus.
  3. If the stimulus is in your mind, take the time to examine your thoughts, stories, memories, judgments, biases, etc., to see how they might be (negatively) impacting your choices and your responses.
    • Consider making it a habit to be more measured, to take more time, and to include more choices before you respond.
    • Consider including alternative strategies and plans so that you might address the situation in different ways.
  4. Look for an opportunity for personal growth.
    • Consider how a choice might make you more open to alternative ways of thinking, speaking and acting. For example, an unexpected cancelled account or sale might lead to an unexpected new client or new industry target.
    • Consider how you can expose yourself to other people, things, ideas, and processes which stretch your comfort zone. In this same example, if a former client gives you the feedback that your current offerings no longer serve their needs, perhaps it’s an opportunity to expand your product or service offering, or expand your offering to a different client or market segment.
  5. Look for an opportunity to grow your team, product, or organization.
    • Consider the market and technology implications of your options.
    • Consider how you and your team/product/organization can become more competitive, more productive, and more innovative.
  6. Consider how you see people and things not-like-you.
    • Consider your personal feelings and views about people not-like-you, and about things that you’re not comfortable with or don’t know much about.
    • Consider how you can become more open-minded, more compassionate, more inclusive and what that would mean for you if you do so. In the iconic book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, Sam I am does convince us to try something new and different, and it does change our perspective about not just green eyes and ham, but about other ‘strange and untried’ foods. 
  7. As you start looking more proactively at all the choices in front of you, consider how you can become less reactive as you get better at managing your thoughts, emotions, and stress.
  8. As you more habitually take a breath to evaluate how ‘real’ a stimulus is, and how to respond to a stimulus that’s more in your mind, consider how you can become more self-aware. Notice how this awareness impacts both your professional successes and your personal happiness.
  9. Notice how you can become more proactive and less reactive by more consistently inserting a choice between a stimulus and a response.
  10. Be open-minded and compassionate to others around you who may be reactive, as we all seek to better manage our choices between each stimulus and each response.

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