When we are reacting to an unfamiliar situation, we instinctively scan for danger. Survival is our most basic concern and threats demand our immediate attention. While we are assessing the level of danger, we cannot switch to reflective practicing.
We are hardwired to our circumstances when in danger. As far as we can tell, the situation is "making us feel" the way we are. We cannot intervene in our reactions. The provocations start on the outside and we're on the receiving end.
When we are practicing reflection, our experience begins within. We choose what we experience by how we perceive selectively and attribute meaning purposely. We create how we respond to situations upon reflection.
Threats can reveal opportunities. Dangers can offer challenges. Enemies can be invitations for dialogue. Weaknesses can prove advantageous while strengths can prove problematic. Nothing needs to be taken literally. We can compare alternative takes on the situation and choose the one that aligns with our intentions.
Opportunities emerge from perceived leverage. When we are at an disadvantage, we cannot perceive opportunities. We first must realize what we have going for us and how we differ from the ways we appear to others. Reflecting deeply realizes leverage in the situation. We may actually have an advantage of:
- being new and inexperienced which gives us a fresh approach and freedom from conventional thinking
- appearing weak and incapable of intimidating others which leaves predators unguarded and over confident
- traveling light and needing fewer resources which makes it possible to maneuver quickly and respond before others can marshal their resources
- owning some "ho hum" resources that are worth their weight in gold in another context
We don't realize these advantages without reflective practicing. We assume otherwise and jump to the wrong conclusions. Until we can stop reacting and create our experiences by choice, we won't have a sense of opportunity in the troublesome situation we're facing.