Do you consistently make good choices? In other words, are you in control of your actions? Or do you let others determine your actions for you? The fact is that most people are simply responding to stimuli. This limits their ability to make good choices regarding their next move. Without knowing why you are doing something, you set yourself up to make poor decisions in the heat of the moment.
Consider these three very simplistic examples to illustrate the difference between making a thoughtful choice (and thus being in control of your actions) versus reacting to stimuli.
- Assume for a moment that you are looking forward to watching a special program on television. You have had your dinner and are comfortably reclined and engrossed in the program. Your phone’s text alert chimes. You can keep your attention on your show … or you can pick up phone, read the text, and reply.
- You are in your home in the middle of an important task. The doorbell rings. You can ignore the doorbell and continue with your task … or you can stop what you are doing and answer the door.
- You are driving late at night on a deserted road. Up ahead is a red traffic signal, but you are the only car on the road. You can slow down and then cautiously keep going through the red light (since there are no other vehicles) … or you can stop at the red light.
Empower Yourself to Make Good Choices
When I pose these questions, many people cite the second option as their initial response. In other words, they check the text message, they answer the door, and they stop at the red light. But all these choices are actually responses to stimuli. They are external sources that prompt—but do not cause—your response. The critical understanding is to be aware that stimuli do not make you respond. You are always choosing a response, either consciously or nonconsciously.
Regardless of the stimuli, you always have a choice in how you respond. In these examples the stimuli were rather common and mundane scenarios. But even with bigger issues—such as losing your job, disagreeing with a spouse, or even dealing with road rage—it’s up to you to remain in control so you can make good choices rather than let stimuli determine your actions.
Tip: Be mindful of why you are choosing to do certain things. Don’t be like Pavlov’s dog and merely respond to stimuli. Be thoughtful so you can make good choices in all areas of life.
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