How to Shift Out of Reactive Mode and Exercise Control

When faced with external events beyond your control, you can lose a sense of certainty, making it feel as if the ground as moving beneath you, and that you are losing your footing. When this is true, a focus on what is outside of your control—or your influence—creates anxiety, stress, and the other natural reactions to fear and uncertainty. You can quickly find yourself frozen, uncertain of what to do, doing nothing, or simply waiting to react to whatever comes next.

You should never ignore the external events that threaten you, but when they are beyond your control, your attention must shift to what is within your control, starting with your response. Here is how you can shift out of reactive mode and start exercising control.

Determine Your Priorities

To act on what is inside your control, start by identifying your priorities. To shift your focus from the external events that steal your attention, decide what you want, what you need, and the outcomes you want now and in the future. Determining—or recommitting to your goals—gives you a sense of direction, in good times, as well as in difficult and challenging times.

Giving your focus over to your goals and priorities is positive, empowering, and something that is within your control. Doing so is valuable for several reasons, starting with the fact that is focusing on what you want crowds out the things that are beyond your control. When your priorities dominate your time, your attention, and your energy, you leave little room for things unrelated.

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Develop a Weekly Action Plan

There may not be anything that can provide more certainty than action, movement, production. Not only does it require your focus, but also the sense of accomplishing things that are important now and in your future also provides you with a reprieve from spending time focused on matters about which there is nothing you can do. So, you do what you can do.

Spend two hours on Saturday or Sunday (or both, if you choose to) to build your action plan for the week. Instead of a task list, convert the tasks to calendar events, blocking time to do pursue the tasks, to-dos, and conversations necessary to your priorities—and your goals and results. By crowding out the space you might otherwise have spent in your email inbox, on social media, or watching and listening to the news (mostly all bad, mostly sensationalized, and mostly unbalanced), places where you will find all things beyond your control.

Filling your days and weeks with tasks and meetings that move you towards your goals is a much better decision than allowing yourself to be distracted by externalities. This is true even if nothing is happening.

Focus on Relationships

Were you to leave your current position and start a new one somewhere else, the one thing you would want to take with you would be your relationships, knowing that starting over would be faster and easier.

Even if there is nothing you can do now, building relationships by increasing your communication, be it over the phone or using video conferencing, is an indication that you care, that you are concerned, and that you are thinking about them. This outcome may not be the same as acquiring a new project or initiative, but the result is a net positive.

It always feels better to act in your interests than to wallow in the paralysis of believing that there is nothing you can do because things are not typical, not optimal, and because it is difficult to generate results. You are always better off working on relationships than taking them for granted or avoid trying to build them altogether.

Remember that in difficult times, people need more help, not less. Remember your responsibility to others and have the conversations that will help you help others, building the relationships necessary to get things done.

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Build the Future

When you are reactive, you passively wait to be promoted to take action, an inferior strategy in good and bad times, but especially in bad times. Being reactive produces poor results, and it leads to the feeling that things are out of control, necessitating your response, rather than allowing you to control what is inside your control.

What you do now is going to have an impact on your results in the future. The more you proactively decide what you need to do now to ensure the future you want later, the more certain it is that the future looks like what you imagine. You have to do work today, knowing that the result will come in the future, preventing yourself from taking too little action and refusing to wait for the world to act on you.

Make sure your actions are building the future you want. This, too, is always a good and right idea.

Use your time today to shift out of reactive mode and exercise control over your mindset and the actions you take.

Filed under: Mindset

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