5 Situations Where It Pays to Act Instead of React

To act is choose your behavior based on your own needs and desires. To react is to allow outside influences to choose your behavior for you. In a life or death situation, reactions serve us well. In other situations, reacting (rather than acting) leaves us at the mercy of others and the environment around us. The results are rarely what we would prefer them to be.


1. Relationships. In an ongoing relationship, it’s easy to get into the habit of anticipating and reacting, rather than observing and acting. While this approach certainly takes the work out of relationships, it’s also true that a relationship you don’t work on soon ceases to be a relationship at all, and becomes simply two people orbiting a common center.

Train yourself to observe the other person’s behavior and weigh your options against your own values, wants and needs. Then choose how you wish to act, instead of letting their behavior choose for you. It might not always be easy, but it beats winding up in a relationship all by yourself.

2. Work. Like being in a relationship, work can become a predictable dance of expected reactions to expected events. But opting to work like this is a bad decision. You’ll be bored, the quality of your work is unlikely to rise above merely adequate and higher-ups will find nothing noteworthy in either your performance or your personality.

Instead, decide what you want out of your position (besides a paycheck) and consciously plan and act to achieve those goals. You may not get everything you want, but you’ll certainly get more of it than you would otherwise.

3. Important decisions. This would seem to be an obvious point, but it’s surprising how many people let habit, expectations and reactions make even the most important life decisions for them. Every day people get married, embark on careers and even start families by simply “going with the flow,” which is just another way of describing passive reaction.

Anytime you are faced with an important decision, stop and take the time to evaluate what you really want, versus what you or others think you should want. This is true even, or perhaps especially, if the choice seems obvious. It’s unfortunate, but not unusual, for people to spend their entire lives going with the flow only to discover in the end that the flow never took them anywhere they wanted to go. Don’t let your life flow through your fingers. Learn to paddle your own boat and there’s no limit to where you can go.

4. Finding your place in the world. You only get one chance to be who you want to be. Why spend it letting others or your environment make those choices for you? Take some time to really think about what’s important to you and how you want to express those values in your life.

Figure out what you need and want out of life, instead of accepting or reacting to whatever comes your way. Actively choosing your path in life based on your own values and goals isn’t always the easiest way to live. But it is by far the most rewarding.

5. Your future. Planning for the future isn’t something that should be left up to chance. But too many people simply bounce from one reaction to the next throughout their lives with no real goal or plan in mind.

Know what you want, why you want it and how you plan on getting it. Then create a plan for reaching your goals, rather than simply reacting to events as they happen. A thoughtful strategy combined with intentional action is a far better strategy for success than playing pinball with your life and hoping you get lucky.

Thanks to Widow’s Quest for including this post in the Carnival of Positive Thinking, to Five Minds for featuring this post in the Carnival of Healing, to Tip Diva for inclusion in the Carnival of Tips., to Your Health Guide for publishing this post in the Carnival of Inspiration and Motivation, and to Widow’s Quest for featuring this post in the Carnival of Positive Thinking.

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