How You React is What Matters Most

Life isn't only defined by what happens to you. What matters most is how you react to every circumstance, what you learn from it, and the resources you acquire in order to face similar experiences in the most effective way.
How You React is What Matters Most
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

How to react to fate’s fickleness? Even though it often provides you with extraordinary moments, it also changes dramatically at times and opens the door to all sorts of crises and difficulties. As per the Greek philosopher:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”


Unfortunately, you may not be doing it right at times. This is because it’s neither easy to be a strategist of adversity nor a guru in existential swings.

You could add another interesting idea to the already classic phrase by Epictetus above. What determines your quality of life isn’t only how you react to these unexpected difficulties, to those black swans Nassim Taleb talked about. Whatever you learn from a specific experience is also important.

Thus, many people react, and understand these specific stages, in very different ways, even though everyone goes through the same sort of circumstances.

For example, losing a job may mean you’re stranded and, thus, you may become depressed. For other people, it may mean that they can take advantage of this opportunity and reinvent themselves to create new projects that often lead to great results.

All this shows us that not only do you have to know how to react but you must also know how to respond. It’s all for the purpose of emerging stronger from any complication.

A person holding on to their scarf.

How you react to what happens to you is what truly matters

Many people have heard that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

However, a good part of you is often an exclusive victim of what happens to you. You’re unable to do anything else because the impact leaves you anchored to your suffering for a while.

There are only questions in your mind during those cases, where you let the days go by without confronting your problems or taking action. “Why did this happen to me? Where did I do wrong? What’ll happen to poor old me under these circumstances?” As you can see, the person focuses only on the facts of the adverse events. What they may not know is there’s another way to handle negative situations.

Instead of obsessing over facts, you must awaken attitudes. More than questions, you must design strategies to react to that specific problem. It’s about substituting anguish for decision-making and, thus, making fear and pain disappear.

When faced with what you can’t change, exercise acceptance and transformation

It doesn’t matter how difficult a given situation you may be facing is. What matters is how you react and respond to it. As Albert Ellis well said, one matures when one finally stops blaming one’s unhappiness on others.

It doesn’t matter what your parents did. It doesn’t matter how badly your past romantic relationship ended. And it doesn’t matter how angry you are with the current government or management. What truly matters is how you react. Nothing else.

You matter! You’re the central axis of your life and your biggest responsibility. Thus, when something leaves you breathless and is out of your control, acceptance is the first step you must take.

The second step is transformation. Only when you dare to change and make brave decisions will your reality change. Note it often does for the better.

A good attitude is the best thing to wear on difficult days

The most powerful and beautiful thing you can wear is a good attitude. This is because it’ll shape your feelings and emotions towards a purpose.

Attitude can also repair insecurities, eliminate your fears, and place your goals on the horizon. Also, it can help you make new resolutions while you trust your instincts.

A person by the beach.

You have the opportunity to build your future

You may be having an uncertain, hard, and complicated day right now. Under these circumstances, what also matters is how you react and what you choose to do. In addition, you must remember that everything you do today will either build or limit your future. You can build or deconstruct, move forward or backward.

Any decision you make today will resonate in your future. Thus, choose to take responsibility for yourself, act and respond, and mobilize your dreams and strategies, for the purpose of remembering that yesterday doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do today; the here and now.

How you react always involves changing something about yourself

Reacting and responding are verbs that indicate action and movement. It’s the revulsive activity that makes people leave old patterns in order to move forward with a new focus. Thus, any unexpected event, any great or small challenge, inevitably forces you to detach yourself from any personal layer that’s already useless. It does so, mainly, to awaken another with greater light, energy, courage, and creativity.

Because beyond what happens to you; beyond suddenly finding an obstacle of great dimensions on your path, what truly matters is how you react to it, how you choose to overcome it, and the new skills you’re willing to apply in order to overcome this obstacle. Thus, keep the following in mind: knowing how to react allows you to have a better life.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.