A Gift to You That Benefits All: Most Important Message of 2012
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor”
~ Henry David Thoreau
We have a unique ability to see ourselves from an outside perspective, almost as if perceiving somebody else. This self-awareness defines human beings. Being able to think about our very thought process enables us to learn from other’s experience, make or break habits, determine our day-to-day happiness levels and stability of personality, and significantly advance from generation to generation.
Through self-awareness we develop a self-paradigm, emerging from how we see ourselves–beyond circumstantial feelings, moods and thoughts–that shapes our attitudes, behaviors and how we see and understand others and ourselves in the world. The question is whether your self-paradigm is based off of values, principles and reality or a function of environmental conditions and conditioning?
A ‘social mirror’ reflecting the current social paradigm and all its opinions, perceptions and other’s self-paradigms discombobulates our own reflection. We are not, however, confined to this reflection. It is, however, common because the social paradigm surrounds us, always offering its perception of ourselves. It even goes as far as claiming that we are determined by environmental conditions, as if we have no control.
Atop the list of determinants are genetic–your DNA; psychic–your upbringing; and environmental–someone or something in your environment. These are stimulus/response theories, meaning we have the internal power–the liberty, freedom, right–to decide how we respond.
Endowed by what makes us uniquely human, we have the freedom to choose between stimulus and response. Beyond our self-awareness we have imagination–ability to create in our minds beyond present reality; conscience–deep inner awareness of right and wrong, principles that govern our behavior and a sense of which thoughts and actions are in accord with them; and independent will–ability to act based on our self-awareness free of other influence.
Using these abilities today to govern our lives and override environmental conditions and training reflected upon ourselves, by ourselves as seen through the social mirror equates our potential to utilize distinct human endowments enabling us to fulfill our human potential–to use this natural ability to determine a sound self-paradigm based on values, using imagination, conscience and independent will toward social and environmental betterment. Then, perhaps the social mirror will turn into a reflection of collective independent people, where we structure society instead of society structuring us.
To be responsible for our own lives, where behavior is a function of our decisions–not our conditions, we can subordinate feelings to values and have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen, means we are proactive.
The first step in being proactive is taking responsibility. ‘Response-ability’ is the ability to choose your response–to giving stimulus. It is our influential and often overlooked freedom discussed prior. The highly proactive, in this sense, do not blame circumstance, conditions or conditioning for their behavior, but act in accord to their own conscious choice, based on values compared to being a product of conditions based on feelings.
We are proactive in nature. Therefore, if our lives are a function of environment and conditioning, it’s because we either chose to empowered them to control us by conscious decision or default.
Making these decisions or allowing the default to guide, you become reactive–affected by your environment beyond self-aware capacity. For a basic, generalized example, reactive people are glum if it rains, while proactive people remain a reflection of their independent values.
Reactive people are also affected by ‘social-weather,’ feeling positive or negative in response to how others treat them. By being reactive in this sense, you build your emotional life around the roller coaster of other’s behaviors and empower their weaknesses to control you.
Whether proactive or reactive, we all respond to external stimuli–physical, social or psychological–but it is the nature of response that defines. What segregates the proactive is their conscious or unconscious ability to make a chosen response based off selected and internalized values.
Eleanor Roosevelt wisely speculated that “no one can hurt you without your consent,” and Gandhi said “they cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.” In essence, what happens to us in the first place, no matter what it is, is secondary to our own consent. We can follow the path of least resistance leading to confused self-awareness through reactive and default responses to social, environmental and psychological stimuli, or proactively serve ourselves, those around us and our environment by taking initiative to define ourselves and the values we base our decisions, attitudes and behaviors from.
While we allow ourselves to be acted upon, it goes against our nature to act. Choosing our responses enables us to create circumstances and take initiative by recognizing our responsibility to take action.
If we continue waiting to be acted upon, we will continue to be acted upon. It behooves us to empower ourselves and take initiative in all walks of life. The current state of affairs present pressing conditions to define our values and consciously, proactively respond to all stimuli based off them.
Whether things get worse before they get better or not, it’s our responsibility to do what our values tell us is right. Proactive self-awareness will resonate throughout, redefining the social paradigm. Only reactive thinking allows the social mirror to control their individual initiative. These reactive types are the ones who claim taking change forward is a naïve vision of positive thinking that will only last so long, that we’ll sooner or later have to face reality.
Nonsense. Being proactive and positive simply faces reality of current circumstance and future projections matched with the reality we have the power to choose a positive response to those circumstances and projections. In fact, accepting the idea that what’s happening in our environment determines us is not facing reality.
We are not at the mercy of environmental circumstance–we can combine the creativity and resourcefulness of proactive individuals to create a proactive culture taking initiative to accomplish shared values and purpose.
A powerful way to convey our self-paradigm is via language. Reactive language becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy reinforcing a paradigm where one is determined by external forces, and they will produce evidence to support the belief.
By using proactive language we can further our individual freedom to empower others and ourselves around us toward collective proactivity–there’s nothing I can do = let’s look at our alternatives; I can’t = I choose; I must = I prefer; If only = I will; I have to do that = I will choose an appropriate response; that’s just he way I am = I can choose a different approach.
Give yourself a gift of purpose, meaning and fulfillment this year, whether you recognize yourself as reactive, proactive or somewhere in between–take responsibility–your ability to respond–to proactively use imagination, conscience and independent will to choose your response to social, psychological and environmental stimuli based on steadfast values and use ‘can-do’ proactive language combined with initiative to create a sound self-paradigm, allowing you to be one with yourself, others and your environment.
By giving this gift to yourself, you empower society to positively, creatively and resourcefully approach the current paradigm to find opportunity and initiate change for endured personal, social and environmental benefit… and a happy New Year!
– Base concepts derived from notes on writings of Stephen R. Covey