The One Trick I Did That Made My Life Better

I always get frustrated.

I wanted to keep my room clean and organized all the time and I ended up getting frustrated every other day.

I wanted to stay on track with my creative works — music and writing — and on one occasion my wife suffered anxiety, I lost momentum I wished to vanish.

I wanted to be a prolific musician. I wanted to start a metal band that will craft epic songs and tour the world and inspire people and stick together for years. But things happen. I couldn’t force them to stay. I was frustrated.

These frustrations have haunted me every now and then. For years, I didn’t know how to handle them. I couldn’t bear the pain. Nobody understands.

And then I learned one trick that completely changed my life. I wish I’ve known this when I was younger.

Change your negative reaction into a positive response.

I thought it was a cliché.

But damn, sometimes cliché works.

Every Day, We React

Almost all our waking hours are spent reacting. When we watch the news, we hate the murderers and we want them dead. When our spouse reprimands our shortcomings we get offended instead of accepting the truth. And then we start to hate everyone around us.

When we react, we unleash unfiltered emotions and make irrational actions. We act without thinking about the consequences. We act from a place of negativity. It’s our subconscious at play.

There’s a difference between reacting and responding.

When we respond (positively), we move into a direction that leads to solutions. We are more thoughtful and our actions are rational. We act aware with our raging emotions. We act from a place of empathy. It’s mindfulness at play.

Let me give you an example: After a month of travelling, I was welcomed by a messy bathroom. I hate messy bathrooms. But I have no time for cleaning. I have more important things to do. More work to catch up.

Every time I use the bathroom, I notice the moldy slimy floor and wall tiles and everything is disorganized. It pisses me off. What a mess. I couldn’t help myself but react, “Oh shit!” 

I keep reacting and the negativity was interrupting my momentum at work (I work at home). I could not focus anymore.

But I didn’t want to be a complainer. I wanted to solve problems. The solution? Respond.

Every time I go for a pee, I brush a few tiles for about a minute. After a day, the bathroom was 80 percent clean. Little by little, I then reorganized the essentials. Holy cow. I should have done it before.

I did the same approach to our room, my job, my writing and music projects, and to everything that provokes me to react.

Responding doesn’t solve things drastically. What it does is lighten our burden and prevent us from getting frustrated and overwhelmed. In general, it makes our lives better.

It may not be the ultimate panacea, but often it’s the only way to find solutions so we can keep moving forward.

If we always react negatively, nothing will happen.

Nothing will be changed.

Respond, not react.

“We don’t have to act immediately, just because we have an internal reaction. We can pause, not act, breathe. We can watch this urge to act irrationally arise, then let it go away. ” — Leo Babauta

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Jade Panugan

Some interesting questions about life and human behavior: What if there's no money? Why we often feel the urge to prove that we're right and others are wrong? Why we react to things beyond our control? Why we hate? Why it's hard to be content? I don't have all the answers, do you? Let's chat.