Powerful Moment Between Stimulus and Response: Choosing the Best Response

My friend Amy was in town the other week with her cousin Chrissy.  They wanted to go to a Vietnamese restaurant about 20 miles away.  I suggested the local one here, but they insisted this one had received good reviews online and would be a pleasant experience.

Little did we know how our pleasantry would grace us.

On the way there, a car stalled, causing California Highway Patrol to close the freeway down.  We sat in traffic for quite some time and got there late, and waited for a long time as there were tons of people in line, and we had just lost our reservation.  “At least the food must be good if the lines are this long,” I thought out loud.  My friends agreed.

When we finally got served, all three of us were appalled at how awful the food tasted.  How disgusting it was and how little skill the chef apparently had.  I immediately told my friend that I’ve had the good fortune of traveling the world and have had the luxury of a wide variety of dining experiences, and this was hands down the worst restaurant and meal I’ve ever had in my entire life.

They all agreed.

We got back in the car, and it was silent.  I began going down the old path of reviewing the filing cabinet.  I wanted to scream at myself for not listening to the signs that the universe provided…from the cop car stopping the freeway to the long lines.  The signs were there, and we had ignored the signals from the Mother in the Sky to leave the situation.  We chose poorly, and that, for three Asian girls, just didn’t sit well from an internal standpoint in terms of cultural upbringing.

There was so much tension in the car, no one wanted to say anything for the first 10 minutes.

Then I realized something…

I had all the power in the world to choose differently than in the past.  Why not adopt some of the newfound tactics of looking at the humorous side of this event?

I gave it a shot.

I surrendered, and took a chance.

What a beautiful outcome.

Instead of indulging my old habits and ways of reacting, instead of letting those old behaviors of blaming Chrissy for selecting this restaurant to re-surface, instead indulging the temptation of getting made the entire night, instead of letting the old bully, my old manhood patterns, beat me into submission and throw an anger fit, I chose differently.

Simply because I realized that I could, and I can.

I recalled that I had a choice.  That we always have a choice.  And I followed that wisdom, and chose wisely.

I cracked a joke about the food.

Amy said “You’re still upset about the food huh?  Me too.”

I said it was bad, but it’ll forever be a story for all three of us….”we will forever be connected…just like when 3 people are convicted of a crime together and serve jail time, they form a lifelong bond, and so too will we: the three of us will always share this experience forever.  We are now locked in sisterhood of the bad noodles.”

They laughed.  The atmosphere relaxed and I felt the power I had in choosing what to focus and dwell on…and it was so amazing, so empowering.  I realized I didn’t have to let an experience like what we had at the restaurant ruin my night.  I didn’t have to label it good or bad.  I had the choice to view it as positive or negative.  And upon the awesome realization that choice is where the power lies, I didn’t go back to analysis paralysis and open old files referring to all the past situations where I didn’t choose wisely before, followed with beating myself up.  Instead, I rode the wave of newfound excitement, fueling the glory filled humor with more fire.

We giggled and laughed so hard.  Amy had trouble driving and pulled over.  Chrissy chimed in: “The cop car earlier should have been a sign of things to come.  We were even warned by the cops!  It was a sign of things to come!”

I laughed so hard my abs hurt.  I had tears in my eyes.  And at that moment, I realized the 17.50 I spent on dinner wasn’t wasted at all…in fact, it bought me this experience….this one experience that was such a huge growth spurt for me, filled with value that no factor of 17.50 could duplicate or replace.

I was happy.  I chose the best response.

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