Six Ways to Optimize Your Ability to Respond Rather than React

After writing the blog, ‘What Drive Your Choices?’, I wanted to give you some specific support in growing your capabilies to respond rather than react in problem solving situations and generally in your life. I think of these six ways as six bridges from where you are today to where you want to be in the future. These six bridges define activities that calm your brain so that it can function optimally, as well as exercising your brain so that you increase the neural pathways and increase its neuroplasticity.

In my earlier blog, “What is Directing Your Choices’ I outlined how our brains have learned how we should behave in the world.  These learned behaviors are embedded in our neural pathways and determine our first reactions in stress situations or in problem solving.  This is great if it involves a hot stove or stepping into ongoing traffic.  Not so great if it keeps us from trying to understand others better or to find a problem-solving way that truly work for us an individual.  Remember the song from the musical South Pacific, ‘you have to be carefully taught’?

Exercise your brain with new information, different perspectives.

Our brains have the capability to grow new neural pathways in response to new information, or new environments.  This occurs, in learning new skills whether they are physical, mental, spiritual or emotional; in deliberately seeking the perspectives of groups that you have perceived to be ‘different’ than you; in pausing and looking for the interconnections between you and another instead of focusing on the differences; in deliberately trying to use a different problem-solving practice such as whole system thinking; and in writing the Creation Exercises.  

Make time daily to Listen internally.   

This listening time allows your brain to connect all your experiences and create unique solutions to your problems.  This can be quiet time sitting at your desk, at your home or in nature.  It can be mediation or listening to peaceful music.    Without this listening time, your mind can’t gather in all that you have experienced and put that into a coherent whole for you to look at.  You are then limited to using other people’s solutions, which most likely will not work for you.  We have all heard stories of scientists who discovered their new idea through dreams, through quiet walks or even in just resting their body with no intention of accomplishing anything. My own father was a nuclear physicist and he swore he got his best insights by laying on the floor in his office!

Bring quiet time back into your day. 

This will help your brain recover from the busyness of your life.  Busyness can also shut down our higher reasoning.  Busyness can be defined as being overscheduled, living in an overstimulating environment such as the TV always on, the phone buzzing, loud cars driving by, and as multi-tasking.  Do you schedule quietness in your day?  How distracting is your home or office environment?  Do you multi-task a lot?

Focus on what is life-enhancing, not life-defeating. 

What we pay attention to impacts how our brains work.  If we bring old trauma into present time, then you elevate your baseline stress equilibrium level.  You will not function optimally.  You will react instead of choosing your words or your actions. Life-enhancing, life–generating thoughts lay the groundwork for response instead of reactions.  You choose your words and your actions.  If you have been writing your Creation Exercises, you have already defined what is life-enhancing for you.  

Create more life-enhancing connections in your life.

Establish a living environment where you will interact with your neighbors on a regular basis.  Feeling connected to other people is one of our most fundamental needs.  We feel safer when we are with kind and familiar people.  It makes both of you physically healthier, socially healthier and less likely to suffer mental-health issues associated with being isolated and marginalized.

Listen to your Gut Brain. 

Our bodies are talking to us all the time thru sensation, sensitivity and imagination, yet we often don’t listen to them.  We have been taught by our culture to do first what the brain says to do.  We now know that the brain is a historical repository and if you only listen to what is historical information, then you are not paying attention to what is occurring in the moment.  It’s that old ‘communication’ habit that some people have of planning their next ‘response’ while not even listening to what the other person is saying.  Yikes!  It turns out there is another part of your body that pays attention to information coming in through all the systems of your body.   It is called the enteric nervous system, our 2nd brain, our gut brain or our solar plexus. It is located in our stomach and intestines and sends information to the brain thru the vagus nerve. 80% of the fibers of the vagus nerve go to the brain, only 20% come back to the body.

What does that mean about paying attention to our body, to our gut brain? How do you listen to your gut brain?  I will be providing more information on that is coming in blogs and in my monthly calls.

In summary, You can make responding your habitual response instead of reacting. You can think your own thoughts not just repeat the thoughts/ideas/judgments given to you by your family/religion/society.   

Contact me if you would like to learn more thru classes or get some individual support.  Contact me at