An old Japanese tale goes like this. A belligerent samurai once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. But the monk replied with scorn, “You’re nothing but a ruffian – I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!” His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and pulled his sword from his scabbard and yelled, “I could kill you for your impertinence.” “That,” the monk calmly replied, “is hell”. Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed thanking the monk for the insight. “And that,” said the monk, “is heaven.”
Whenever we encounter unsettling situations in our life, we can deal with it in two different ways. We can either respond or react to it. A reaction is instinctive and often instantaneous. As human beings, we tend to react while giving little or no thought to the actual circumstances. Responding, on the other hand, involves an actual assessment of the situation so that we can make an informed decision about how best to proceed, based on the particular circumstances that we are faced with. As the Zen master explained above, we can either choose to live in heaven or hell. Living in heaven is all about respecting and valuing those around us and having a goal that is about always aiming to project what we ourselves want to receive. It is all about responding and not reacting.
Life is ten percent what happens to us and ninety percent how we respond to it.
The legendary Mark Twain was once confronted by a big burly guy in a narrow stairway. When they both reached midway, the big guy retorted loudly “I don’t give way to fools”. Mark Twain just looked at him for a moment, walked all the way back and said, “But I do”. There is a huge difference between responding and reacting. Leaders who inspire and motivate others understand the distinction between these actions and are able to respond as opposed to react to difficult or unpleasant situations. If Mahatma Gandhi had reacted when he was thrown out of the train in South Africa, our history would have been different. But he rather responded to the situation which helped in building his credibility as a powerful leader, who later went on to inspire and motivate millions of people world over.
More than the problem , it is always our reaction to the problem which hurts us more. It is not the irate customer that is disturbing, but rather our inability to handle the disturbance caused by the customer. It is not the traffic jam that is disturbing but rather our inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam. Between the stimuli and the response, if we can use the gap to think and contemplate, then we may be able to respond thoughtfully.
Remember an intelligent person always responds, but only a fool reacts