Blog: Action vs. Reaction

One day after school as a teen, I was sitting at my computer, probably chatting with some friend. My dad asked if I had any homework. I am pretty sure that I was worrying my math teacher and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d called my parents. My dad asked if I had some math homework to do. I grumbled and gave some excuse. Then, my dad offered some encouragement and asked me, “do you want to be an A student?” I shrugged and said, sure. He said, “What would you do if you were an A student right now?” “Go get their school books, and study every day.” I knew what it took to get the grades, but I had become distracted.

I was a good kid in high school. My parents did their best to coach me, and give me a chance to develop. Still, I lost my focus on school work in the first couple of years, and fell behind.

My parents were always reading self-help books, and taking courses. There was this class my parents took and insisted that my siblings and I take. I must have been a Sophomore by then because I remember driving our fifteen passenger van with my dad to clock time on my driving permit. When you have to drive from a small rural town to a suburb of Detroit once a week, you clock a lot of miles. Going to these classes started out being kind of a drag, but by the end I was so grateful and I learned so much! I learned how to patiently listen to long lectures about how to improve myself, and I learned about principles of integrity and work.

This perspective also taught me about growth mindset because I knew that even if I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, I could become it by taking action now.

I knew that when my dad had asked me what an A student would do, he was asking me to visualize what I wanted to become, and then get me to think about what it would take to realize that vision. I knew I had a weakness to overcome, and my dad was willing to take the time to help me through it. He drove me to my school to pick up my books, and he helped me work on my math. I don’t know that I ever got very good at math, but I learned the importance of doing the work. My relationship with my dad changed that day, and my parents have always been my best advisors. My dad was shaping our family culture with his intervention!

The opposite of action is not inaction, but reaction.

I was actually choosing to be idle, that was an action. But, I also wasn’t being conscious of my behavior. I was distracted during my first two years of high school. I let my social life take the place of other more important things just because I had friends who would distract me. I had very few friends up to that point, and now there were upperclassmen wanting to hang out with me (mostly because of my older siblings). I wanted to be accepted, and I felt kind of like a cool kid (even if I was a band geek in the drum line). I jumped on any opportunity to feel like I was finally fitting in somewhere. So silly in hindsight.

As a parent, it is so, SO easy to be distracted. I’m not just talking about media and personal devices. We get so distracted by choices, by fear, by social pressures, by housework, by school work, by diets, and by trends. There are so many things acting on us that we sometimes forget to pause and act intentionally. So we react, putting out fires all day long. Day after day. We react at the store when our kids ask for some candy and start to cry when we say no. We react when the laundry and dishes are piled up again, and we need to block out another hour each night to get them done. We react when we are unprepared to leave in the morning and end up being late to everything. We react when we are feeling insecure and get a glance of ourselves in the mirror. We react when our kids are fighting. We react when our spouse says something they immediately regret.

When my dad asked me as a kid what would an A student do, he was teaching me how to have a vision. Now, I ask myself, what would I do if I were great at time management? What would I do if I were an excellent homemaker? What would I do if I were a terrific homeschool mom (what ever that may mean to me)? What would I do if I were a successful entrepreneur? What would I do right now if I were already what I envision?

When we place ourselves in our vision as already successful, we are more likely to act that way. That vision of the future becomes our present reality. (I’m sure I read this in some new-age book about visualization). It changes your mindset, and your mind to believe that you have reached your goals, and then it gets easier to work toward them.

When we have a vision in place it makes it so much easier to pause and act on our values. It makes it easier to discern those things that we value, and it also makes it easier to reject those things that we don’t value. So you can see that inaction is also an act.

I’m not suggesting that we need to be perfect, not by any means. But, when we are intentional about our family culture, we can visualize what we can do now that will produce the results we hope for. Our family culture is the means of guiding our actions so that they honor a greater purpose in the grander scheme of things, and make our day-to-day have more meaning.

It’s OK that your dishes went unwashed for a few hours when you chose to spend time with your kids instead because you know that someone who has good relationships with their kids takes the time to develop those relationships now. It’s OK that you are picky about Christmas and birthday gifts because you are discerning about what comes into your home and you know what it takes to have emotionally intelligent kids. It’s OK to turn off the TV when you have a bigger picture in your mind of what you would do now if you were already living as you would if you already realized your vision. It’s OK that you take the time to honor your family culture now because you know that is what it takes to become what you envision as though you are already there.

So ask, what would we do now if we were ____________? And add your value word there. Here are a few suggestions: living in excellence, organized, punctual, patient, kind, serving, living in abundance, living in grace, full of integrity, faithful, etc.

 

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About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.

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