Proactive, Reactive and My Sketchy Science

The video from my last post about being more active/proactive in my life has been rattling around in my head ever since I recorded it in Shanghai.  For one, that concept of being proactive really locked into something I had been feeling for a while without expressing as well as I could – namely, that I had been letting life happen to me without taking an active stance on what I wanted out of life.

But the second reason it really hit me didn’t become clear until I was looking through my notes in Evernote on the flight back home.  I came across a note from September 5, 2010 from when I was reading Stephen Covey’s classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.  I couldn’t believe the serendipitous timing of recording that video and then seeing this exact note a few days later:

The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of a proactive person. Reactive people are driven by circumstances, feelings, conditions , environment. Proactive people are driven by their values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.

As a person highly focused on my own values and trying to live them as best I can, it seems the concept Mr. Covey described in his book never really left me, but had decided to lurk for a while in the back of my mind, waiting for the most opportune moment to rise again… or at least to be kicked to the front of the line by some catalyst of thought.

So what’s the point of all of this?  Simply this: My own personal level of happiness and satisfaction is highly correlated (and maybe even directly tied) to how active I am in living to my values.  If I am reactive (or worse still… inactive) about all of this, I am far less happy.

Prowler pushes = 100% proactive.

I realize that there is much of this that isn’t earth-shattering news on the level of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian dating.  I mean, that’s just important stuff for all people of the world to ponder deeply.  Anyone could easily say, “Really Kev?  You are a values-driven person and you aren’t happy when being focused on your values?  How is that surprising in any sense to you?”  And anyone who did say that would be pretty on point in asking those questions.

But here’s where I think it gets interesting and something I return to again and again – it’s very easy to let the daily buzz of life, work, busy-ness, family, friends, baseball games, hustle, bustle, goat farming, charity work, car maintenance, yard work, laundry, assimilation to the Borg and whatever else takes up your day to draw attention away from what is truly important.  It doesn’t excuse losing sight of what’s important, but it does one hell of a job explaining why.

That’s my assignment going forward – the mindfulness on this.  It’s actually something that is ascending to the level of a truism in the Pantheon in my head… that when I am being proactive and really mindful of expressing my values through my actions, I am 100X happier.  When I don’t, I find myself flopping around like a fish on a dock.  Not a pretty picture.  Another truism is that if I get sick with a cold or any other nasty little bug, it’s almost always during a period of higher-than-usual stress.  It’s uncanny.  Hmm… the funny thing may even be that I have higher-than-usual stress when I am not proactive about my values… never even thought of that.

So there you have it, my friends!  Be proactive in your values or catch colds.  Irrefutable science… just without all of those pesky double-blind studies in peer-reviewed journals to muck up all my fun.

5 Replies to “Proactive, Reactive and My Sketchy Science”

  1. who needs peer-reviews when you’ve got experience on your side, right? i too find myself less stressed, more happy, etc when i’m living life to my values and my passion as well. sometimes it takes conscious reminding to do so and to make smart choices that will make me happier in the long run, and reminders like these kinds of posts always help! thanks!

  2. If nothing else, it’s good to know these serve as a reminder for someone else besides me. Mindfulness is severely underrated.

  3. My toughest personal goal is living in the moment. Why is it so hard to take a walk and for 60 minutes NOT think about what you need to do tomorrow, next week, next year ? Why is it so hard to focus on the HERE and NOW ?

  4. Great question – I think it’s because life provides us with so many distractions that our minds get used to always being “on”. It takes practice and a lot of hard work to de-train from that mental state and just be in the moment (certainly for me). But I tell ya… when I do have those fleeting periods of time when everything is just flowing? There are few better feelings.

  5. Man, I know there are time when I feel like I’m wasting time if I am sitting relaxing. Some days just feel like I should be busy when I’m not and others im so busy I feel guilty for taking a break. Sometime you just need to stop and be in the now!

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