You know what really gets me fuming? People in queues who start to dawdle around once they get to the head of the queue, not really knowing what they want, what they're there for or what to do next. I mean, why are they in queue if they're not ready to be served or don't know what they're doing? And of course all the while they're holding the rest of the queue up while they figure it out. I'm sure I'm not alone!

Actually, that’s a bit of a fib – those situations used to really get me going but I handle them much better now, mainly because of what I call the ‘Chain Reaction of Action’ – an incredibly simple and powerful way to change anything for the better. Not bad huh? It’s based on the idea of cause and effect - someone dawdles around at the head of the queue and we get angry. That’s simple cause and effect and it looks like this -

Cause >> Effect

This is how we tend to think things work in the world. Things happen to us and all of those external events are the cause; our mood and our success or failure is the effect. Sounds pretty simple, and it would be if it wasn't for the fact that there's more to it than that. How about we add something into the mix -

Cause >> Reaction >> Effect

Now we've got an external cause that brings out a natural or automatic reaction which determines the effect. Our reaction to what happens to us leads to the ultimate effect on ourselves, others and the world. Using my example of being held up in a queue, it looks like this,

Cause - Someone dawdles at the head of a queue >>
Reaction - A sudden surge of anger and frustration >>
Effect - I feel stressed, angry and put out and express that during the rest of my day

Reacting with a surge of anger or frustration will lead to increased stress lasting a few minutes or even hours, and it's highly likely that it will leak out into my behaviour and that others will pick up on it. But what if that's not what I want to happen? What happens if the ultimate effect isn't what we wanted before the cause took place? What if we're looking to achieve a different effect, a different outcome or to have more say in what we experience?

The good news is that it is possible to change the effect of what happens, and it's about making the right change in the right place. Directly changing the external cause might work sometimes, but things happen all the time in life and often there's very little we can do to control everything that happens to us. Directly changing the ultimate effect of what happens just isn't possible - it's purely the result of everything that's gone before it and so can't be changed directly. Changing the original cause or the ultimate effect seems to require God-like omnipresence and the ability to control everything instantly. I don’t know about you but that’s a little out of my reach.

So if we can't directly change the cause or effect, it makes sense to take a closer look at our reaction, which can be broken down into three parts -

Reaction = Emotion >> Choice >> Action

Our reaction to something is made up from the emotion that we feel, followed by a choice and then an action. In my example it goes like this -

Emotion - Anger and frustration >>
Choice - Let the anger take over >>
Action - Let anger leak out into my thinking and behaviour

We can't change the emotion we feel - we're human beings and feel different emotions all the time. Trying to change, suppress or deny them is generally fraught with difficulty and only spells trouble - ask any therapist. The place where we have most power is in the choice we make based on the emotion we feel - and this is where the magic happens.

There's a gap between what we feel and how we act - that gap is the choice we make and that gap is where anything can happen. Deliberately stopping, pausing or interrupting yourself between the emotion and the action to make a conscious choice is where you become - to use Obi-Wan Kenobi's famous words from Star Wars - more powerful than you could possibly imagine. So the full chain reaction of action looks like this -

Cause >> Emotion >> Choice >> Action >> Effect

Get to know this chain reaction and how it works for you, and know that you can make choices at any time. Be aware of that gap between emotion and action - the gap where your choice lies - and make a conscious choice that has the kind of effect you'd like to see. Use that gap to ask yourself, 'What's a choice I can make that will serve me well?', 'How would I like to be treated here?' and 'What's a positive, proactive response I can make?'
Let's take another look at my example in light of this –

Cause - Someone dawdles at the head of a queue >>
Emotion - Anger and frustration >>
Choice - Take a deep breath and stop myself from reacting just now. Accept that I've done exactly the same thing before now, realise that everyone has off-days, that they certainly didn't come here with the sole aim of upsetting me and that I wouldn't want someone cursing at me under their breath >>
Action - Smile to others in the queue, say 'No problem at all' when the person at the head of the queue awkwardly apologises, let them know it's okay and maybe turn it into a funny situation >>
Effect - The person at the head of the queue leaves feeling better about the situation and won't carry any bad feelings into the rest of their day, others in line smile and realise it's no big deal, I feel the anger and tension slip away.

The chain reaction of action can be applied everywhere in your life. If you have an argument with your partner, if your boss treats you harshly, if you feel you’re being taken for granted by someone, if someone cuts you up in traffic or if you feel frustrated because someone doesn't understand what you're saying, you can use this technique to have a different effect and change things for the better.

Once you’re aware of this process you can begin to interrupt your ‘automatic’ reactions and allow yourself to make conscious and deliberate choices, and you’ll find that your path through life becomes simpler, more fulfilling and more satisfying.

Want to change your world for the better? Look at your chain reaction of action and get ready for the good stuff!

Author's Bio: 

About the Author
Steve Errey’s free ezine ‘Being More’ shows you proven ways that YOU can have, do and be more than you thought possible. By signing up you’ll also receive a special report titled ‘5 Little Secrets Other Coaches Won’t Tell You’ – visit now.

Steve Errey is one of the UK's most in-demand coaches and specialises in personal growth for thirtysomethings - helping them with their careers, relationships and confidence and to get more fun, fulfilment and freedom. For more information please contact Steve on 0845 644 3001, by email at or visit his website at