Life is constantly in motion. You may pause from time to time, and you need to rest and recharge daily. Yet, even so, life is in motion, whether you are moving or still.
Every morning when you wake up, you start making choices. The vast majority of these are fairly benign and almost automatic. Get out of bed or hit snooze? Shower or go give the cat attention? Oatmeal or eggs for breakfast? Tiny, nearly thoughtless automated choices every day.
It is extremely easy to just let it all happen. Go with the flow of the ever-moving stream of life. There is something to be said for the simplicity inherent in this idea. Why not just live and let live? Why not just react to the natural flow of life?
The simple answer is because you will not be satisfied. Things happen in the natural course of life outside of yourself that do not resonate with who you are. Constantly reacting tends to turn into a struggle and becomes forced choices.
A choice that is forced is not a choice as well-thought-out as any other. What am I talking about here? To get to work on time you proactively leave your house at 8:30, allowing for traffic so you get to work on time. When you don’t decide to go at 8:30, but instead rush out the door at 8:45 you are reacting to your situation rather than working to control it.
This is a mostly passive example. As choices and decisions get larger, the stakes do, too.
Constantly reacting is exhausting
There are several things to take into consideration here. These are important because they tend to be situations you have to react to, no matter how much planning and plotting you do.
- You cannot control other people
- Weather and environmental factors are unpredictable
- Outside stimuli will unexpectedly impact your emotions
- Time is wonky
It’s easy to forget that the only thing over which you have any real control is yourself. Specifically, your mindset. What is going on inside your head, thoughts — feelings — actions, are the only things you truly can influence, control, and change.
You can plan and plot for yourself, but the outside factors of life are going to impact that. When you don’t fully take that into account — and that tends to happen to most of us — you wind up reacting constantly.
You have to put out fires, calm the disgruntled, fix things broken by other people, rush to be on time and meet deadlines, drop what you were doing for something possibly more urgent, and on and on. Did reading this list feel exhausting?
That’s the problem with being constantly reactive. Ever wonder why politicians and the government tends to be ridiculous and short-sighted? Constant reacting. It’s how efficiency goes out the window and good ideas get tossed aside for the supposedly tried-and-true.
Being proactive takes effort
Probably the biggest challenge to being proactive is outside factors.
Because of how little you can truly control and all the things you cannot, is it even possible to be proactive?
Yes. The first step is recognizing that you have no control over these factors and planning for that.
More often than not people get set in their intentions. I am going to do ‘x’ today and accomplish ‘y’. You focus on this and take a proactive approach to it.
But if you have neglected to allow for those factors you cannot control you will wind up being more reactive than proactive. This will be frustrating, and you will exhaust yourself.
For example, I had a project that my boss wanted me to do at one of my past jobs that was particularly challenging. It made me take some steps outside of my comfort zone. I got it all done, checked it over again and again, and then left it on his desk.
I anticipated that when the boss looked it over there would be probable corrections, and then the next steps of making necessary copies and getting it where it needed to go. Instead, the boss returned it to me — leaving it on my desk — with the word NO scrawled atop it.
Catching the boss for an explanation proved difficult. Now I was in reactive mode. Could I fix it? What would happen to my job?
Turns out he didn’t look past the cover, forgot that he’d assigned this to me, and thought I was proposing something new rather than completing an assigned project. Now it was too late.
Despite my own proactive work, in the end, reactivity and outside factors overwhelmed the effort.
You get to choose
I could have let this totally derail me. I am pleased to report that it didn’t.
Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the end of that particular job, but frankly, the writing had been on the wall about that for months. So when I lost that job, rather than react and get all “woe is me” about it, I took other actions.
It is always a choice. Be reactive to what happens or proactive with it? Get angry/flustered/hopeless or be encouraged/stimulated and hopeful? You get to decide and choose the direction to take.
You can be reactive or proactive in this life. To be fair, you can also be in the middle between the extremes. You can just go with what happens initially and give it a little time before you choose which way to lean.
The important thing here is to choose. Don’t just let it happen, decide if you will allow yourself to just be reactive or proactive. Put out the fire as it erupts or wear the fireproof suit?
Nobody else is inside your head. Mindfulness and conscious reality creation belong to only you. Will you be Proactive or Reactive? The choice is yours to make.
What actions will you take with the choices before you?
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter, whether we are reactive or proactive.
Originally published at http://titaniumdon.com on February 5, 2020.