Most people spend their lives reacting to their past or worrying about their future. Thousands of hours of valuable time and energy is wasted on blaming others, or their life’s circumstances for their current level of happiness and success. There’s one thing that successful people do, as the famous writer, Stephen Covey once said, that others don’t – take full responsibility for their lives first, followed by taking proactive steps toward change.
As much as we want to pin the blame on something else, or someone else, our lives don’t just “happen.” We each face a different set of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but whether we are doing it consciously or not, we choose success. We choose failure. We choose confidence, or ambivalence. We choose to give up and let life beat us down, or we choose instead to take another step in a positive direction.
Are You Reactive or Proactive?
Being ‘response-able’ means seeing things as they truly are, and not as we wish they could be. One might wish they had a different upbringing, that the social and economic playing fields were different, that they didn’t face a health challenge, or that their circle of friends behaved in a different way than they do, but we have no control over what’s out there. What we have complete control over is our RESPONSE to each moment. We may not be able to change the national debt, or terrorism, or the weather, but we can take monumental steps at changing something we have a larger influence over – ourselves.
To be responsible is to be able to see things clearly, and then to act – not to stay in a fairytale bubble wishing for change, but to create it ourselves. Instead of saying, “I can’t,” or “if only,” Responsible people make it their life’s goal to say “I can,” even if it is only a small step in the right direction every day.
Instead of acting like a Pavlovian dog – constantly reacting to a stimulus, we can choose, mindfully, our response.
“I am convinced that an important stage of human thought will have been reached when the physiological and the psychological, the objective and the subjective, are actually united, when the tormenting conflicts or contradictions between my consciousness and my body are discarded.” ~ Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
A reactive mind tries to keep us safe and alive, but it doesn’t really leave room for a mindful response which results in balance and wholeness.
Proactivity as a Cornerstone of Spiritual Growth
Just being “active” isn’t proactivity. That’s simply business. Being proactive starts with a clear and conscious mind. When we are clear in our minds and hearts, we don’t fall into a repetitious or automated set of reactions or habits. We don’t push our conscious intentions or desires aside with automatic thinking. We live consciously. We live deliberately. We live with the true freedom marked by an escape from false self-expression.
The only way from moving from reactive thoughts like, “I have to do this,” or “There’s no other way,” or “I won’t” to “I can,” or “I prefer,” or “It is possible,” is with awareness and choice.
Unhealthy, reactive and even subconscious patterns can be changed, but it requires a dive into the spiritual self.
We aren’t all awesome at everything. We each have our own strengths and gifts. Proactive people concentrate on what they are good at, and accept what isn’t their forte. They have goals, but never without a plan. Otherwise they are just wishes. A plan doesn’t work, without true, mindful self-awareness.
Moving from the Reactive State to the Proactive State
“What you are is what you have been and what you will be is what you do now.” ~ The Buddha
Whether you realize it or not, about 95% of your actions and thoughts are repetitive. Scientists have actually conducted studies to prove this, but it doesn’t take long to find out for ourselves that much of our thinking is deeply patterned if we just sit and observe our thoughts.
There is a part of us that is alive and fully connected to Source, which doesn’t thrive on repetition. It needs the fullness of conscious, proactive thought to thrive.
Our karma could really be described as our most commonly held thoughts and beliefs. It can be changed in an instant – that is, if we could only change our minds. This is because out thoughts lead to our actions, which build our character.
Every time you react to a circumstance, the situation or person is in control of you. When you choose instead to be proactive, when you choose to respond, you have broken an old habit of reaction which is really tied up in fear, hurt, distrust, etc. We are usually triggered into reactive thinking, but we can respond to challenges by staying mindful.
This means we have to change our thoughts. First we must become aware of reactive, self-defeating patterns. Then, we can actively work to change them. The more self-aware we become, the less reactive we will be.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Following are nine ways to change the reactive cycle and become more proactive:
- Every thought you think is already an affirmation. You are simply “affirming” your truth. Does what you are thinking right now really “affirm” what you want to see in your life? If not, replace those thoughts with more positive thoughts. Make them a mantra if you have to, and replace the negativity with more conscious, uplifting thought.
- Full Stop your panic attack, anxiety, and rumination about how life has done you wrong. Instead focus on what has gone right and how you can help “right” happen again.
- Count your blessings. If you have to stop a mental lockdown on how you’ve been wronged, get our a piece of paper and write: I can breathe. I can sit here and read this article. I have at least one friend. I have the power to change my life. Write down everything you are grateful for and do it every day.
- Stand up – literally to trying circumstances. When we feel defeated, we slouch. We cower. We literally shrink into our bodies. Instead, stand strong and powerful even when life seems to come at you from all sides. This changes your breathe. It changes your body chemistry, and allows clearer thinking to prevail.
- Be like a child. Little children hardly stay mad for more than five minutes even after a raging tantrum or fight with their closest friend. They give up their emotions, then play. Follow this impeccable example.
- Eat, move and sing. Staying fit physically helps you stay fit mentally.
- Practice psychic hygiene. If others around you are constantly reacting to their circumstances or refuse to take responsibility, make it a habit to distance yourself, and intently focus on staying mindful. Vigilantly protect your thoughts and thereby, your actions.
- If you can’t change the world. Change yourself.
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