100 Ways To Live A Better Life – 93. Stop Reacting To Stuff

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And start acting on stuff. Initiate things. Start projects. Predict situations and be there before the hurricane hits. Reacting to stuff is a victim paradigm. Stop being a victim and start acting. Create your life instead of being the creation of others.

There is this common belief that if you are cool and mind your own business, nothing bad will ever happen to you and life will spare you of troubles. People tend to translate this belief into a consistent lack of action: don’t do anything, and, eventually, good stuff will come to you. Guess what: it never comes. Instead, you have to go out and find the stuff you need.

Don’t wait for the circumstances to force you respond in a certain way. Create your circumstances in advance. Design your own life.

Acting instead of reacting is the difference between living your dream and dreaming. 

The Reactive Mindset

I’ve been raised in a communist country, Romania. Until my 19th anniversary I didn’t know what it means to talk freely. There was always the suspicion of being listened by the almighty Securitate. I didn’t know how was to have my own property. Everything we had was shared, no one recognized, let aside to guarantee, my right to own my house, or my car. It was worse than it sounds now.

This context wasn’t very appropriate for someone keen on his own opinion (as I was very soon to find out, when, as a teenager, I wanted to express some disagreement with the authority figures of the time). It was more appropriate for obeisance, for submission. It wasn’t good for people with ideas, with dreams, with curiosities, but more for people who listened, who followed the status quo, for followers.

Alas, I’m not this kind of person and that was one of the reasons my first 19 years were very, very hard, psychologically speaking. I wasn’t very popular in school, I didn’t have many friends and I wasn’t very social. To say the least. Instead of going out with my colleagues I preferred long walks around the lake near my home town. I felt confined and oppressed.

In hindsight, though, I find these years enlightening. By being exposed to that oppressive context I learned the real value of freedom. By being forced to live within a draconic set of rules (and I’m not kidding, communism in Romania, especially during the 80s, was bad stuff) I learned how precious free will is. The imprint of those times was so deep and powerful that tens of years after I still get the shivers when I think about it.

The good news is that the lesson is still within me. I am holding it inside without even thinking, it’s part of my life. I know now that if I want something, I have to create it first. I know that I decide what’s happening to me, not circumstances. Yes, sometimes those circumstances can be difficult, but that’s also part of life and, even more, those circumstances are also a consequence of my own choices.

And I know that if I react to stuff, I’m simply late. When you are in the position to react to something, you’re not actually doing anything, you’re just juggling with too many balls at once. Reacting means you lost the start, you’re in the trail of events, you’re drifting instead of navigating.

When I surprise myself in this mindset (yes, it happens every once in a while) I simply stop reacting, look around, brush up and stay still for a while.

And then start fresh.

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