Living the Equation

Personal Development expert, Jack Canfield, presents a simple, elegant and very powerful formula to describe life and it goes like this:

Event (E) + Reaction (R) = Outcome (O) i.e. E + R = O

The formula says the events in our lives plus our reactions to them largely determine the outcomes we experience. What matters in life is the outcome

we create in any given situation and that depends on our responses to events. Looking at the formula, it is clear that you need to be able to

manipulate the two elements on the left – the event and the reaction – in order to obtain the outcome you desire. However, you often can’t control the

events you encounter in life but you can control your reactions to them. Your reactions greatly influence your outcomes and you have full control over

how you react to any event. This means that we effectively have control over our outcomes and hence, over our lives.

Life is constructed from a stream of events unfolding before our eyes in time and space. No matter what we do, time “flows” in one direction in an

unrelenting synchronized march into the future. This unstoppable “flow” memorializes our existence on earth in terms of the outcomes we create. It is

like they say… stuff does happen and keeps doing so… and there’s no way to stop it. Rivers will always flow, mountains shall erupt, the winds shall

blow, hunger will strike, rain will fall, night will turn to day, etc. That’s life…that’s the reality we live in, or should I say, we swim in. It is the same reality

we all share in one connected existence that makes us one and the same entity. That is to say, no event occurs in isolation in our existence – everything

that happens in the universe, no matter how seemingly remote, affects us all. Take the analogy of the river; throughout the length and breadth of a

river, every incident affects the whole system. A rise in the level of water upstream, generates consequences downstream, for example. We generally

do not have any control over these events – they will occur whether we like it or not. In addition, they tend to generate other knock-on events in our

interconnected universe which, in themselves, tend to remain beyond our control.

Though we lack control over the events in life, the mere fact of our existence in the universe generates outcomes. In other words, even a lack of

response to an event constitutes a reaction and generates a corresponding outcome. In this endless stream of life, it doesn’t matter whether you stand

still, try to go with the “flow” or even try to swim upstream against the “flow”, each is a reaction and you will always generate an outcome. If you try to

stand still, you get progressively worn out and eventually swept away by the “flow.” If you try to swim against the “flow”, you expend a great deal of

energy for an ultimately futile exercise. Standing still or fighting against the natural progression of things are neither good nor sustainable

options...these are simply unnatural ways to live. Nature is always in motion but everything occurs effortlessly – trees grow without stress, flowers

bloom, the tides rise and fall, the seasons come and go, the giant sun rises and sets like clockwork, night follows day, etc. And it all happens with breath

-taking ease. This suggests that the natural way of living is to do so in the “flow.” We have to become fully attuned to nature and to live in perfect

harmony with it. We have to get into its constant state of movement and growth and do so in perfect unison with it. Plants and animals seem to be far

better at this than humans. For example, some birds avoid the harsh winters of the northern hemisphere by riding the winds through thousands of miles

into the southern hemisphere guided by the earth’s magnetic field. The return journey home follows the same process and it is precisely timed to

coincide with the return of spring. Animals easily sense and avoid getting caught up in volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters long before

humans are even aware of the danger. It is believed that animals possess a sophisticated system of communication that enables them to take their cue

directly from Mother Nature. The list of examples is very long and it all points to creatures living in the “flow” by trusting and letting themselves be

lifted, guided and nurtured by Nature. The precision, effortlessness and efficiency of these activities cannot be matched by anything science has

created. This suggests that we humans also have these capabilities and that our ultimate state of existence is when we are aware of who we really are

and live in perfect harmony with Nature. Unfortunately, we often fail to do this and find ourselves living out of kilter with Nature sometimes with

devastating consequences. We forget about our true nature which is that we are all one emanating from and dependent on the same Source. We

approach life as isolated individuals in a brutal Darwinian fight for survival. This, in turn, colours our perception of events and skews our responses to

them often producing undesirable outcomes.

Our reactions to the events that occur in life do matter and are fully under our control. Psychologist Ernst Beier says, “anyone who learns that he can

choose his own feelings and words and actions is a free person and a powerful person." We have full control over our reaction in any given situation

and are therefore fully responsible for the outcomes we generate in life. The same event can potentially generate as many possible outcomes as there

are reactions to it. For example, suppose there’s a storm and you lose your house including all your belongings and suddenly become homeless. That’s

an extreme scenario which, unfortunately, is not uncommon. You have many possible reactions you can adopt - you could weep endlessly, feel sorry

for yourself and descend into permanent depression, for example. Or you could let these natural feelings wash over you for a time while clinging to

hope and then eventually roll up your sleeves and take the situation into your own hands. In his book, The SEDONA METHOD, Hale Dwoskin presents

the amusing case of children who sometimes fall while playing and may even hurt themselves. They stay down and look around to see if they need to

get upset. If no one’s watching, they promptly get up and continue playing like nothing happened. But if someone is watching and they make eye

contact, they burst out crying. The same event creates two quite different outcomes and the child decides how to respond. It’s all about the reaction

and it’s fully under our control…the outcome just follows naturally.

The key to generating positive reactions is by first of all knowing who we really are and how we fit into the universe. It requires that we carefully

examine our beliefs, values and moral codes which act as filters through which we perceive our world. We also have to work on our thoughts and

feelings in order to keep us centered at all times and enable us to take control of our lives. These greatly determine how we perceive events and

therefore strongly influence how we react in a given situation.

It is clearly important for us to seek the positive outcomes we desire in life by controlling our reactions to the often uncontrollable events we inevitably

encounter in life. Our lives are made up of the collection of outcomes we each generate throughout our time on earth. Our outcomes affect the

universe as we go through life generating our existential imprint which eventually becomes our legacy to the world. The events we encounter in life

are not the key determinants to our outcomes as much as our reactions to them. In every situation, there is a reaction that could transform even the

most dire circumstances into positive and growth-filled outcomes. Take control of your thoughts and feelings and always remember who you are…

your true nature… so that you can correctly perceive events in order to react appropriately thereby generating the outcomes your desire in life.

Emmanuel Kijem © October 2008

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