Things don’t always go as planned.

We don’t always get what we want.

So let’s just save ourselves a lot of headache and heartache by simply accepting Murphy’s Law as fact.

When faced with an unpleasant outcome, how do you choose to respond?

Scream? Cry? Throw a tantrum? Flee the scene?

Your choice of response is determined by this one question. Well, technically, it’s two questions packaged as one:

Who am I and what do I stand for?

I’ll jump straight into an extreme example: Say our partner cheated on us.

In our anger and in our hurt, the thought may cross our minds to do the same thing to get back at them. They disrespected the relationship so it’s all fair game now, right? There is a part of us that wants to hurt them back the same way, just so they will know and understand the pain we are going through. We may even feel justified in sleeping with someone else. I believe that for most of us, though, the motivation to “get them back” is actually more about seeking empathy for our pain and less about inflicting revenge, while that may seem the case on the surface.

The rage that stems from the discovery of infidelity can be so great for some people that violence feels like a natural course of action to them.

Or we feel compelled to throw and break things as a cathartic release to mirror our hearts that have been shattered.

All purely instinctual reactions that no one will really fault you for.

But what if you are able to pause and ask yourself:

Who am I and what do I stand for?

I’ve been there and I can certainly empathise with these primal urges.

And I can understand how the temptation to lash out is so intense in the heat of the moment when emotions are in overdrive. But that is not who I am. I am not a violent person and I will not let situations external or internal, justified or unjustified, make me sink to that level. That is not who I want to be. That is not who I choose to be. And this is not just hypothetical.

And I will admit that the thought of getting back at the person who betrayed me did cross my mind. But I didn’t and wouldn’t go sleep with someone else just to hurt my partner back. Because that’s simply not who I am. Because I value myself as a person of integrity and I stand for fidelity.

I do believe in forgiveness and second chances (in general) and so I tried to give the relationship another shot but I found that I couldn’t get past it and eventually the relationship just deteriorated beyond repair.

In going through that experience, I’ve learnt that trust, integrity and keeping the sanctity of a committed relationship are pillars that I will not compromise on. And if they are not valued with the same reverence by the other person, they’re my relationship deal-breakers.

On hindsight, if I had been fundamentally grounded in the principles I stood for before entering the relationship, I would have walked away after the initial indiscretion and saved us both a lot of pain and misery.

Now taking a little less intense example, what if I’ve asked someone out and didn’t get a positive result?

To be really honest, my first reaction would be to reject their rejection. I may launch into an internal rant that goes something like this: “B*tch! How dare you say ‘no’ when I’m such hot stuff dripping with awesomesauce? You should be so lucky that I even asked you out!”

Clearly, that’s coming from an over-inflated ego. And if I let that take root, it would cause me to immediately close my heart off to them and judge them as ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ for rejecting my invitation, which isn’t the case at all.

But if I stop and ask myself truly,

Who am I and what do I stand for?

The ego would slither away in shame and unmask the true internal state of affairs: disappointment and the pain of rejection. Because I am human, after all.

Once I am able to be vulnerable enough with myself and admit how I honestly feel, only then can I choose a response that is reflective of who I truly am and what my values are.

So as the universe would have it, I had the chance to practice this recently when I didn’t get the positive response I had hoped for.

Well, I stand for choice.

So although it sucks for me because I really like this girl, I am happy that she gets to exercise choice and free will.

I also stand for peace.

And so my heart desires the response (from myself) that will restore internal peace and harmony the quickest.

So I can choose to let myself stay stuck in that ego-centric whirlpool of resistance that will only send me down the rabbit hole trap of overthinking and overanalysing, which is guaranteed to bring me misery. Or I can choose to find a way to get myself to a space as fast as possible where I’m able to respect her choice and accept it, and then try to just let it go gracefully.

Of course, it is always much easier said than done and it is something I am still working on. I find that practicing mindfulness helps me catch myself quicker and allows me to pause and ask myself how the true me wants to respond in the situation – the ‘me’ beneath the ego and the defence mechanisms, from the core of my being.

Who am I and what do I stand for?

Asking yourself this question every morning will help determine how you respond and react to everything that happens to you throughout the day.

Say a colleague backstabs you at work. You have every right to be angry and want to retaliate. Do you go into tit-for-tat mode and return the favour? Or do you take the high road and find a way to handle the situation with class and dignity, if that is what you stand for?

So tonight, take a moment and ask yourself:

Who am I and what do I stand for?

And if someone steals your cab during morning rush hour tomorrow, notice if you respond any differently than usual.