You Don’t Have to React. How Maximizing the Delay Can Make You Happier
Have you ever reacted without thinking first? How did it turn out for you? As humans, we don't have to immediately respond to everything. There's a delay, between an event and our action, between a stimulus and our response. If we're ever going to be successful, both in life and as leaders, we have to gain control over, master and maximize the delay.Maximizing the delay is about making the most of the time between an event and how we choose to react to it. I've previously written about taking time and being patient, that in a fast-paced world, sometimes we need to slow down. When life is at it's busiest and the world is coming at us are exactly the times when we need to maximize the delay and make the best decisions possible.
Even outside the field of psychology, the story of Pavlov's dogs is well known. In case you're not familiar with his study, here is a brief synopsis.
Pavlov designed an experiment to see if he could trigger a response in his dogs. After several months of conditioning, Pavlov could ring a bell and, without thinking or any sort of cognition, the dogs in his lab would start to salivate in expectation of being fed. The bell was the stimulus, salivating was the response.
You probably see this in your home everyday when it's time for one of your pets to eat. Each morning our cat Boomer will sit and stare at the pantry door waiting for my wife or I to go in and grab her food. She has become accustomed to being fed shortly after we go into the pantry. The pantry door opens (stimulus), and Boomer immediately heads over to her food bowl (response).
For animals like Boomer, there is no delay.
But in humans, there is a delay. There is a gap between an event and our reaction to it. We must choose to fill the delay with something better than reacting without thinking.
You and I have the ability to make a choice and maximize the delay. We can weigh our options, as well as the consequences of our actions. We don't have to do exactly what we are are expected or told to do.
I bet you've already maximized the delay at least once in your life. Perhaps when you were called something really nasty or hurtful and chose to not punch that person right in their face! I know I have.
Just because something bad happens to us doesn't mean we have to react negatively to it. We have a choice. I don't have to respond to negative events in a negative way.
Similarly, just because we have something great happen doesn't mean we have to brag about it and be a bad sport. Again, we have a choice.
We can either choose to react positively or we can choose to react negatively. We can respond positively, by habit, or negatively, also by habit.
Make a bad decision now? Or, wait and respond later when we're calmer and thinking straight.
3 Ways to Maximize the Delay
- Ask yourself how your reaction will effect things 6 months from now.
- Ask yourself if your behavior will get you closer or further from achieving your goals.
- Ask yourself how your response will impact the people around you.
Question: How do you maximize the delay?