When it comes to the way you live each day, do you spend more time acting or reacting? If the latter, what one commitment can you make to be more intentional in the year to come?
Living reactively leaves one out of control, at the whim of circumstance, and forever on the verge of panic. Proactive living, however, can have the opposite danger. Too much planning can leave one rigid, stuck, and unable to respond to changing conditions. A balance must be struck.
The balance I strive for is one of intentionality plus responsiveness.
Reactivity gets me into trouble when there is no pause for me to insert my intentions into the space after someone or something has acted in my environment. If someone presents a proposal and I start critiquing it without thinking about it enough to understand how it relates to my goals and intentions, I have reacted but not been responsive. I will almost certainly react out of a desire to maintain my sense of correctness, avoid looking foolish, achieve higher status, or some other form of defensiveness.
In order to respond productively, I need to know what my big goal is and how I want to be in relationship with the people around me, and to filter all new information and events through that lens before taking action.
In order to take the time to respond, I have to cultivate:
- comfort with the period of not knowing how I will respond,
- ease with silence,
- courage to be vulnerable enough to be influenced,
- confidence in my own knowledge and capabilities, and
- commitment to how I want to engage with people and circumstances.
Jonathan Fields asks what one commitment can I make to be more intentional in the new year. This is a great question.
It would be easiest to say that I commit to the big goal of “being responsive”, but that commitment is too broad to be easy to practice. To be effective, I must focus on one element at a time before I can practice integrating them.
Comfort with not knowing how I will respond is an element that I worked on deeply last year as part of my Co-Active coaching training.
I already have a meditation practice for cultivating ease with silence. And I have seen a growing ease with silence in my coaching work. In fact, a client of mine who is a coaching student recently told me that one of the things she is learning from observing me is that she needs to cultivate ease with silence so she can offer her clients the space I offer her.
The courage to be vulnerable enough to be influenced, confidence in my own knowledge and capabilities, and commitment to how I want to engage with people and circumstances are the elements of responsive engagement that I want to focus on developing. These are interconnected.
Cultivating the courage to be vulnerable is easiest when I am confident in my knowledge and capabilities. If I doubt my capabilities, I tend to erect rigid boundaries of control. I refuse to let others influence me because I fear that I will be influenced out of myself and away from my goals and values. And when I hold those strong boundaries, I am not connecting with people as people. Instead, I see them as obstacles or tools to use.
The linchpin is my confidence in my knowledge and capabilities. So, the most useful commitment I can make to be more intentional in the coming year is to stop being self-deprecating and claim the full extent of my knowledge and expertise.
This will allow me to set intentions for specific projects and continually reorient myself back to the goals and desired process as facts and circumstances change.
Being responsive relieves the anxiety that pushes me into reactivity. And when I am not reactive, I can take forward-moving action. It is a virtuous cycle.
This is part of Quest 2017, a 12-prompt process for annual planning. The prompt was provided by Jonathan Fields, author of How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom, a wake-up call and a path to possibility, complete with 30-days of inspiring, actionable explorations.
Jonathan’s current focus, Good Life Project, is a global movement that inspires, educates, connects, and supports mission-driven individuals in the quest to live better, more engaged, connected, and aligned lives.