Is there a gap between who you want to be and who you are? It’s one thing to have goals that stretch you beyond where you are now, but it’s another to feel like the life that you are living, the way you are spending your time and your energy, isn’t quite focused in the way you really want it to be.
When you are busy, especially if you are coming from a place of feeling hurried or stressed, you are likely to go through your days reacting to what is in front of you. I call it chasing your to-do list. This is a big mistake, because, as long as you are reacting, you aren’t setting the agenda. You aren’t being proactive and you aren’t in charge. Quite simply, when you are reacting, you aren’t leading your life, you are following it. When this happens, it’s not unusual at all to feel like you aren’t even on the priority list. Life balance and self-care go out the window and you aren’t likely to feel like you’re achieving your goals. In fact, you might not even be sure what your goals really are.
When you are reacting you tend to jump from one task to another. Because you are following, you will always feel behind, or at best, like you are just “keeping up.” When you are leading, your life flows behind you. You are charting the course, programming the GPS, and you get to make the decisions about where your energy, your time, and your passion is spent.
Consider the difference: when you are in reaction mode, you need to be on alert. It’s like waiting for someone to throw the ball and needing to constantly be prepared to catch it. Reaction mode is stressful and can be anxiety-provoking. When you are reacting, you aren’t in charge of the timing or overall game plan. You aren’t really in charge of much. It’s hard to be in the moment when you are in reaction mode because part of being good at reacting is trying to always anticipate what “might” be about to happen in the future or what you “should” be doing.
Reaction mode tends to breed quick fixes and less thought-out decisions. Reacting leads to being more connected to the outer world than to yourself and what you are needing or feeling. Overeating and emotional eating are common in reaction mode because eating can happen quickly and without a lot of thought. Food is easy comfort or “stress relief” when you don’t feel like you have a lot of time or energy to plan and when you don’t believe you are running the show.
The bottom line is that reaction mode means that you didn’t write the game plan. Your agenda is not likely to be represented in the way it would be if you had authored your life plan.
Authoring your life plan and your daily schedule is exactly what leading your life is about. Taking charge of your life (your time and your energy) is the first ingredient for thriving. Thriving and taking charge doesn’t mean that you don’t have “have-tos” or a boss or unpleasant or stressful things to deal with. It means that you have found a way to design your life in a way that honors who you are and works best for you. When you are driving your life, you know where you want to be heading (even if every action isn’t taking you exactly there). You know what your priorities and goals are for the day, the week, and the year, and you have a commitment to honoring them—and a road map that will take you there. Most importantly, your plans include the things that allow you to be at your best and the tools and strategies that will create success and satisfaction. When you are thriving you feel like you are being authentically you and when something happens and you don’t feel that way, you can use it as a signal for course correction.
So how do you make the shift from surviving to thriving? Take the first step to break the pattern of reacting to overwhelm and move into the driver’s seat. Commit to taking ten minutes each day to connect with yourself, clarify your priorities, and schedule them. Be sure to include activities that are important to you and your self-care even if you can only devote a little time to them at first. Taking ten minutes for you may be harder than it sounds, but it can start to create a powerful shift.