What do I need to do?

Always Act, Never React:

With everything that has been going on in the world recently, it has me thinking about a lesson I learned many years ago and how it has improved my life in countless ways. Today will be a little different than most of my posts as I won’t be focusing on the marketing or sales, or even on the journey towards a goal. Instead, I wanted to share a life lesson I’ve learned that has made dealing with the hardest points in my life far easier than I see other people deal with similar issues. Today I want to talk about the power of taking purposeful action in a situation rather than reacting to the stimuli of that situation.

When we encounter something that pushes our buttons like the killings in Orlando, actions that cause us pain and heartache, actions that fuel our anger and rage; we have an instantaneous reply to those events. We have gut reactions that the vast majority of the people act on. People don’t think or weight their actions, they don’t decide the results that they want and form a plan on how they can achieve those goals, they simply react to the negative stimuli and let the results fall where they may. In almost every situation that I have witnessed, both in our larger culture and in my own life, this reaction is always to the detriment of everyone involved in the situation. Reactions are a system in our instincts meant to keep us alive in an immediate situation, they are nothing but a survival instinct and that instinct doesn’t care what happens an hour, a week, a year or even a decade down the line. It only cares that we survive the immediate situation in whatever way that we can. That isn’t a bad thing when we are truly involved in a life or death situation, but our lives are diluted in immediate danger to the point where we take that instinct and use it on situations that pose no immediate damage to us. We use those gut instincts to dictate our actions on a larger scale and that is a practice that is certain to cause more pain and damage both to others and to our own goals and lives than is needed.

After living through the pain and suffering of these reactions made by myself and those around me, I managed to step back and with the help of some friends and some good books was able to see them as the vectors for pain that they really are. This allowed me to learn a new skill and that was to learn to Act rather than to React. When we take the time to look at a situation, form goals on how we want to see the outcome of the situation pan out and, in a broader sense, how that results of the situation will fit into the life we want to live, we have the power to act in ways contrary to our instincts in an effort to create the desired outcome. It doesn’t always work, but it gives us a chance to have positive outcomes occur in situations that are seemed destined for negative outcomes.

This is a skill that we can all learn, though it is very difficult at first. It means drowning out the instinctual voice and taking a step back from the drive to do something and instead  give ourselves time to think and formulate a plan. This is something that we need to learn to become better people and to teach those around us to create a better community and world in which to live in. It means taking the responsibility ourselves to act in a thoughtful and active manner rather than thoughtlessly and damaging and it can be a terribly difficult thing to learn. Yet, it has improved my life in countless ways from removing the damage from situations that I find myself in, to learning how to perceive myself and how I interact with the world. There are few skills in my life that I would say come anywhere close to this one in helping to create the life I want and that influences the most positive change in the world around me.

Take some time as you read the news or follow on social media in the next months of life and when you feel that roiling turmoil in your gut or your soul, take a break from it and think about the situation as an outside observer might. What are your instincts telling you to do and what would be the results of following the reactions in an immediate sense and in a long term sense? What actions can you take instead that will not only make the situation itself better, but be better for you and the world around you? That is the power of acting instead of reacting and I would encourage you to learn to harness that power in your own life.

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