Choose to be Proactive - Not Reactive
Last Update: Jun 13, 2021
Who has not heard about Pavlov's dog! it refers to a learning process where food (stimulus) is presented to a dog and at the same time a bell is rung (neutral stimulus). The dog will then salivate at the sight of food. When repeated enough times, the dog will then salivate (stimulus) at the sound of the bell (neutral stimulus is now a stimulus). The stimulus causes a response./
People start out their life like this - you can see it in full display in many teenagers. The boy gets kicked off the basketball team and which world falls apart.
Of course, some things happen to us that will always produce some sort of response. Your car breaks down and you will likely be unhappy; you lose your waller and have an anxiety attack; your car breaks down in the morning and you say, "Great, my whole day is going to be bad because of this!"
But does that have to be this way?
Frankl started out believing that it did have to be true. He was a Freudian behaviorist and believed your early life experiences determined your character and personality essentially controlling your life.
Then World War 2 happened. He was a Jew and so went into a concentration camp where he experienced unspeakable horrors. But in the camp, he decided to abandon his earlier teaching and adopted "the last of the human freedoms" - the freedom to decide how he was going to react to the horror around him.
He discovered a fundamental principle about the nature of people - between stimulus and response there was freedom of choice. You get to determine how to react to the bad things that are happening to you; you get to determine at least to some extent, how these bad things affect you.
Freedom of Choice
Once people figure this out, they are liberated from bondage to other people. Bad things may happen to people, but these bad things have no intrinsic emotional content; how we react to these bad things is determined by us.
We can choose how to react to bad things because we have an independent will. The ability to act on our self-awareness free of all other influences.
A computer runs by its own program. It can solve a mathematical problem millions of times faster than the smartest person. But the computer is a slave to its programming.
People can change their programming.
This can have a powerful effect on the lives of people having certain problems in life. For example, a person going through a divorce might see the experience as horrific and totally ruining his life. (Likely, this belief will be self-fulfilling). Another person going through a divorce in the same circumstances might decide to believe he was being liberated from his marriage opening new opportunities.
People are still affected by things that happen to them, but proactive people are driven by values they have carefully thought about, selected, and internalized.
People are still affected but their response is a value-based choice or response and not an emotional one.
Act or Be Acted Upon
It takes initiative to make a better life, to form values upon which you will act and react.
For instance, someone who says "I can't do that, I just don't have the time." They are really saying "something outside of me (limited time) is controlling me.
Someone who says, "He makes me so mad" is really saying "My emotional life is controlled by him!"
We have to choose between being "reactive" where our emotions and feeling of self-worth are determined by someone or something else, or "proactive" where our emotions and actions are under our control.
Reactive people tend to focus on the shortcomings of other people who they insist are the cause of their current situation; Proactive people work to make themselves better recognizing they are in control of their current situation.
Reactive people assume no responsibility; proactive people assume responsibility for their feelings and actions.
People at WA tend to be proactive people believing we can change our circumstances. We have free will - the power to act in powerful ways.
We can not blame our spouse for making us unhappy because it is ultimately us to decide whether we will adopt that emotion of unhappiness - or try to make the marriage better. Having a poor marriage is emotion neutral - we get to determine how we respond.
It's a very liberating concept especially for those who feel guilty about something. We have to remember what is in the past is in the past and we should not beat ourselves for the rest of our lives for something in the past. We get to make that choice.
Let's all choose to improve ourselves, do better in life, and choose to be happy. We only get one life after all!
What do you think?