• Justin McLennan

Responding vs. Reacting



I would like to share with you one of my favorite old fables. It is my favorite not only because of its’ message but it also resonates with many of the teenagers I coach. It is simple, short, easy to remember, and helps me live a healthier, happier life. Before sharing it with you, I would like to add a little background to it.

I have recently been studying to earn my life coaching certification, and one section that caught my attention was focused on how we handle outcomes that happen in our lives. I am only going to touch the tip of the iceberg on this topic, but it immediately reminded me of the fable below.


When an event, outcome, or situation arises, we will either react, or we will be responsive. While they may seem similar, responsiveness is very different from reacting. Responses are rational, whereas reactions are emotional. With that said, we will either react emotionally or we will respond rationally when something happens.

Every feeling we have in life stems from an initial thought. What we focus on in life, we feel. If someone says something and you buy into it, then you will start to feel something. If you do not choose to focus on what was said, you will not feel anything about it. People cannot make you feel anything. Let’s look at a common example.

Person A makes a negative comment at Person B. At this point in time, Person B has the choice of how to handle the comment. He could buy into the negative comment, start to feel angry, and react out of anger. Reacting emotionally. The other option would be to respond rationally. In this case, he would decide not to let the negative comment affect him. He would decide not to focus on the comment, allowing him to not feel the anger and to act rationally.

The fable that you will read below describes what I believe to be a farmer responding rationally. It is through our perception that we determine if an event is bad or good. None of us can predict the future, and none of us know how an outcome will affect our lives in the days to come. In this story, every time something happens, the town’s people perceive it as either being good or bad. They are reacting emotionally to the outcome. However, as you will read, the old farmer does not seem to allow himself to label or predict the meaning behind each event. He responds rationally. This is a valuable lesson that I have tried to live by and while it is hard sometimes, it has helped me live a happy and healthy life.

When a situation presents itself, do you tend to respond or react? Can you remember a time when you were responsive and a time where you just reacted? Which path led to you feeling happier?

Finally, here is my favorite old fable. Hope you like it and it has an everlasting impact on your life as it has on mine.

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

#Awareness #LivingHealthy #Mindfulness #Emotions #GoodLuckBadLuckWhoKnows

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