Acting is what makes you happy, reacting is what makes you miserable.
Whenever you act, you perform a conscious choice, you decide you’re going to do that thing. You become responsible. But when you react, you follow somebody else’s choice, you’re responding to an external stimulus. You’re not responsible anymore, you leave the responsibility to the stimulus. When you act, you’re the pupeteeer, when you react, you’re the puppet.
Choice versus Context
Acting is independent of the context, reacting is totally dependent of the context.
You may be in favorable contexts at times. When you’re a kid, most of the time you’re in a continuous favorable context. The problem is that context is artificial, you are protected by your parents. While you’re a kid, in a favorable context, acting or reacting are basically the same: whatever you do the context will remain favorable. Your parents will love and protect you no matter what. But once you get out from their protection, you may hit some very unfriendly contexts. And here you’ll learn the real difference between conscious action and powerless reaction.
If you consciously chose success, you don’t really care about context. You’re going to be successful no matter what. You act, you’re consciously building your own way. You chose to get there no matter what. But if you don’t make this choice, and your life is just a reaction to a chaotic flow of stimulus, then anything in the surroundings will help you fail. It’s you who let the context do that, and you did this by resigning from your own command, by reacting instead of acting.
For instance, being miserable after losing your job it’s a reaction. The context was really hard for you and you lost something. The “normal” reaction is to be sad, worried, discouraged and miserable. On the other hand, being confident, manifesting hope and starting to look for another job (or even starting your own business) it’s a conscious choice. Losing your job it’s just a fact. What you do about this fact is what really matters.
Reward And Frustration
Acting is rewarding, reacting is frustrating.
Every time you act on something, you are rewarded in some way. Not every conscious action will be successful. You may fail at times. Maybe many times. But you still get your reward. When you fail, the reward is in learning. You made a choice, you acted in a specific way and you learned something, even if the action was a complete failure.
If you react, all you get is frustration. You didn’t make a choice, you just responded to a stimulus. Maybe you wanted something else, but instead of choosing an action, you automatically reacted to that stimulus. There is no way you can get a reward if you’re reacting to something. Even if the initial stimulus was positive.
For instance, you blindly fall in love with somebody.That’s a positive stimulus and you reacted to it. After the initial, unconscious chemistry phase, you have a choice: to love and accept no matter what. If you don’t consciously chose to love no matter what, you’ll get hurt. Instead of accepting the other one, you’ll start to control him. In love, jealousy is a reaction, unconditional acceptance is a conscious action.
Choosing versus Enduring
The difference between action and reaction is not always simple. Most of the time we’re acting by habit, and habits are just safe reactions. We know how to ride a bike, we learned how to do it, when we’re on the bike, we’re just reacting to it. It’s a safe reaction. Many of our habits are safe reactions. But some of them are just stupid.
Some of the most dangerous safe reactions are related to money. We tend to react to economic stimulus and news, rather then act upon them. For instance, if there’s news about a bad economic context, we’re starting to protect our investments. That’s a safe reaction. The bad economic context may or may not hurt us directly, we never really know that. But the pre-programmed reaction to cover our savings will emerge without any control from our part.
A much better approach would be to directly act upon our finances. For instance, it’s not uncommon that investment is much more profitable during hard economic conditions. A lot of stuff, including real estate, is getting cheaper. Running to protect our money, by reaction, instead of investing it, by conscious action, will be stupid. Again, the economic context it’s a fact, everybody will feel it, what really matters is our attitude towards it, our choices.
Results versus Excuses
Action creates results, reaction creates excuses.
Every time you consciously chose something, you are producing results. You are the one who started everything, hence the reality obeyed you. Again, even if the action was, by any standard, a failure. Reality responded to your stimulus and created a result. Maybe it wasn’t the result you wanted, but it’s still a result.
If you’re reacting to something or somebody else, you are producing excuses. Your reactions to external stimulus will seldom be aligned with your internal values. If you chose to react to stimulus, you’re already giving up your values and empower the stimulus. You’re not acting, you are giving out control.
Most of the time, your reactions will try to protect yourself from apparently bad things: somebody yelling at you, losing your job, being left by your partner. A typical reaction to all of these will be frustration. And perhaps sadness, lack of hope, misery. So, after the yelling is gone, after the job is gone, after the partner is gone and after your miserable reaction, all you will be left with are excuses. It could have been the other way around, but it isn’t. Sorry.
A typical reaction after reading this post will be to think a little bit, to identify possible matches with your own behavioral patterns and then to forget it while gazing at the next funny cat picture on the web. A conscious action will be to bookmark it, to share it with as many friends as you can and to comment on it.
I’m joking, of course. But I’m consciously choosing to joke with you by writing this blog post, instead of gazing at the wall in my office and thinking life sucks. And this action will certainly create some great results.
How about you?