Do you live deliberately, or reactively?
Whenever I’m talking with someone, I’m always interested in knowing how much of their day to day life seems to be “deliberate” versus being dictated by various, “on the fly” emotional reactions; the latter being a style of living which we might term “reactive.”
For example, let’s say a man is feeling disconnected from his spouse or significant other; that they are more like roommates than anything else. Let’s also say that he’s feeling lots of stress at work or in other areas of his life. He’s also got various pressures and responsibilities, all of which feel overwhelming to him much of the time.
Well, in my experience with people, this man has the risk factors required for some form of “non-deliberate”, or what we might call “reactive”, life choices.
He may, for example, “decide” to have an affair, or to use drugs or alcohol to momentarily escape the pressure and disconnect he feels. Or perhaps he may begin to show up late to work or to procrastinate. His boundaries with others may slowly loosen up in various destructive or self-sabotaging ways, or he may make one or more purchases to temporarily make himself feel better.
In other words, he is at risk for what some call “acting out behaviors”.
The point here is that these “choices” are often more accurately described as reactions to internal or external pressures than they are well thought-out, deliberate choices or adult decisions.
We know this because these are the very choices which most of the time prove to be damaging to the person’s life, whether to their relationships, their finances, their physical or emotional health, etc.
Ultimately, it is NOT what the person really wants.
So why do we humans do this?
We live reactively because we are feeling disconnected, afraid, anxious, angry, lost, empty, bored, etc., you name it.
So what should we be doing about it?
We need to get back to deliberate living.
In other words, we need to get back into our real lives, with our real emotions, and our real relationships.
To start with, you are better off taking a walk or throwing yourself into serving your children or other dependents, or perhaps doing something healthy for yourself such as preparing a healthy meal or tackling a task you’ve been putting off, than you are taking the “reactive” options listed above.
If you’re feeling out of sorts, or have free floating anxiety, why not sit down with a pen and paper and list the things that are bothering you or worrying you?
Maybe you’ve been procrastinating something important (or lots of things), or maybe you’re worried about your physical health and have not followed through with seeing your doctor about it.
Whatever it is, you’re better off listing it out or discussing it with someone than ignoring it completely.
Whenever we put something off for a long time it takes on a power and an insurmountability far beyond the actual issue at hand. This is not healthy; not emotionally, and not physically.
You might be surprised how freeing it is, and how healing, to begin to make your decisions in your day to day life deliberately, and not reactively based on your fears, worries, or conflicts.
Some other examples of deliberate living to take with you:
1) if you’ve decided to get up earlier to spend time with family before work or to eat healthier or get to work earlier, then make it of utmost importance and priority to do so
2) if you’ve decided to do the above, then you will likely need to go to bed earlier; decide what time to go to bed and follow through, not giving in to more reading, television, work, or computer time (stop reading this and get to bed!)
3) if you’ve decided it would be good for you to make some dietary and exercise changes, then deliberately and slowly make those changes for yourself and your health
4) if you’ve decided to spend more “quality time” with your spouse or significant other, then arrange to do so rather than continuing the cycle of “hello/goodbye” living with them each day- practice LVAC with them
5) if you’ve decided to tackle a project at home or for your health, then list out the steps you’ll need to follow to accomplish these things; make that appointment with your doctor, or visit the home improvement store, or clear off your desk or kitchen table to get started paying those bills or doing the taxes
Again, deliberate living is very different from living reactively.
You’ll experience more energy and greater self-esteem, you’ll be more in line with who you really are and what you really want, and you’ll free yourself from many of the internal and external struggles which bind you and cause you to need to escape from your life.
All My Best,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
(Next time I’ll tell you how to “Reverse Time”.)