In an earlier post, Your First Choice, we looked at the difference between a reaction (a thoughtless action) and a response (a thoughtful action). The executive summary was this:
Our natural answer to challenging, anxiety-provoking situations is to react. Reacting without thought is instinctual and critical to our survival when we face imminent danger. Yet, most of us rarely face imminent danger. We face conflict and inconvenience. Rather than react, we can train ourselves to thoughtfully respond. By doing so, we nurture the “non-anxious presence” within.
Individuals who develop and promote this non-anxious presence are sought out to lead and to counsel. By furnishing a climate of calm, you can offer true value to any situation just by showing up.
So, how do you develop that non-anxious presence?
The first step is to fully accept that conflict is ever present. Time and again, we are told that “Peace is not the absence of conflict.”
Peace is an attitude. And while it doesn’t require the absence of conflict, it does mandate the absence of anxiety.
Anxiety is a fear of something that has yet to happen. All too often, it is also the fear of something that may never happen. So the non-anxious presence creates an atmosphere of clarity out of a cloud of doubt — a recognition that conflict, while present, can be manageable and survivable.
With this realistic knowledge that conflict will always be attacking or at least lurking, the second step is to learn to create, in addition to clarity, a bit of nothing . . . space.
Our brains are incredibly powerful organs with capacities that still exceed the most super of all supercomputers. One of the sources of the brain’s power is the ability to redirect incoming information through multiple filters and processes. To do that, all your brain needs — all you need — is a little time. Time, even a millisecond, creates space.
And a little space brings discernment and consideration. With discernment and consideration comes the opportunity for reaching and exercising wisdom.
The non-anxious person brings that little space to the table. To be that person, you must train yourself to introduce a split-second hesitation that will allow your thoughtless reaction to become a thoughtful response.
The non-anxious person must learn to say . . . “Wait.”