How to Improve Every Area of Your Life

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Control over circumstances begins with controlling your reaction to your circumstances. By observing how you react to what happens, you begin to see how you can improve your reaction. Improving your reaction brings about improved circumstances. For instance, to improve your marriage, begin improving your reactions to your mate. As you improve the quality of your responses, you will find your marriage turning into a more satisfying relationship for you. If you want to be more financially successful, improve your reactions to your present financial situation. As you do this, you will find your financial situation improving. The common mistake that we make is expecting conditions to improve as we continue reacting to our triumphs and defeats in the same old ways.

Life is cyclical. Just as you witness the return of the seasons, you can see the return of high and low “seasons” in your life. Trouble does not only visit, it revisits. How you react to trouble determines what follows. You cannot prevent trouble from coming. But you can improve your reactions when it arrives.

To make real, organic change, you can only change by small degrees. Regarding your reactions, you can only make the slightest shifts. Reactions constitute the replay of habitual patterns. You always have the opportunity to shift out of a habitual reaction, to some degree.

The common error that we get caught up in when difficulty arrives is to allow our reactions to consume us. We act like victims of our reactive patterns. If something goes wrong, we feel like a failure, or we imagine that we will never overcome it, or that things will get worse. Those are learned, habitual reactions. To the extent that you live in your reactions, your reactions consume your power.

Every reaction uses your power. But it is your power. The power of your reactions does not belong to your reactions. And you can gradually take back your power, to improve your reactions.

As you improve your reactions to the low cycles of your life, you gradually raise your life to a higher level. Low cycles will return, but they will be relative to increasingly higher cycles. For instance, let’s say that you are facing a problem in your marriage. Whatever you do about it, problems in your marriage will return. How you respond to your present problems will either raise or lower the level of your marriage over-all.

The key to improving your life, then, is to gradually withdraw your power from your present level of reactions, and direct that power into a higher level of responses. Rather than permitting your reactions to difficulty to entirely dominate you, focus your intention on observing your reaction, so you can bring at least some degree more wisdom into it.

The key to withdrawing power from a reaction is observation. By focusing your attention on your reaction, instead of permitting your reaction to entirely direct your attention, you withdraw power from your reaction. You take back the power of your attention and the power of your intention. Observation always reveals ways that you can improve upon what you are saying, thinking, feeling, or doing. In other words, observation leads to wisdom.

When you notice yourself feeling down, angry or insecure, don’t fight against your reaction. Simply observe it, with the intention of improving it to whatever degree you can. As you do this, you improve your circumstances. For instance, lets say that you face a financial setback. Observe your reaction. You might observe yourself reacting with frustration, disappointment, and anxiety, and maybe regret over your past choices that led you to this problem. You might observe yourself wishing that you were not in this situation, envying someone that you believe is in a better situation. You might notice the urge to lash out destructively, to break something, to yell at someone you care about, to give in to a self-destructive addiction like over eating, smoking, drinking too much.

In the past, when something like this occurred, your negative reactions may have swallowed you up, completely absorbed you, run you. Now, by observing your reaction with the intention of improving it to whatever degree you can, you experience some degree of liberation. Instead of yelling at someone you love, you can exercise a little more restraint and speak more calmly. Instead of taking a drink you can decide to take a walk or work out to calm your nerves. Instead of plunging into despair you can take a few deep breaths and relax. Your anger, unhappiness and fear may still be there, but through focused observation and intention, you will be able to ease those states to some slight degree.

You might find yourself tempted to worry that easing up on your negativity is not enough to solve your problem. You might worry that you need to do more to avoid the situation worsening. But when improving your reaction to a slight degree is the best you can do, it is enough to set a positive trend into motion. This trend may not entirely turn your circumstances around, but it will improve your circumstances. You will find that this cycle of difficulty passes a little sooner, leaving a little less damage than it other wise would have. And when the cycle of difficulty returns, it will prove to be a little less threatening, a little easier to handle. If you focus on improving your reactions once again, the difficulty will pass more quickly and easily, and the next time it arrives, it will prove less trying.

In life, things will not always go the way you want them to. About 50% of the time you will be faced with challenge, pain, disappointment. That is how life works. We can call it the law of the living wave. Like the ocean, life occurs in waves that go up and down. The only time life remains flat is when its dead. Then you flat line. But as long as you live, you will experience ups and downs in every area of your life. You cannot stop the downs from occurring. If you try, you end up destroying yourself with the wasted effort of futile strain. You cannot make enough money to avoid the lows, the dangers, the adversities. It doesn’t matter what religion you subscribe to. It doesn’t matter who you marry or divorce. it doesn’t matter what job you land. It doesn’t matter where you live, who your friends are, or who your elected officials are. The wave defines the pattern of your life.

But you can turn the wave into a spiral. Look at an illustration of a spiral and you will see that it still demonstrates a pattern of up and down, but gradually the waves rise to higher and higher levels, until the lows are higher than the previous highs. Things still go up and down, but they improve overall. To turn the waves of your life into a spiral, focus on improving your reaction to your circumstances. When things are going well for you, observe your reaction and look for ways to improve it, to bring more wisdom into it. When things seem to be going against you, observe your reaction, with the intention of finding ways to improve it, to bring more wisdom into it. And when things seem to be just okay, nothing special is happening and nothing particularly challenging, again observe your reaction with the intention of improving it.

You can always improve your reaction to some degree by simply focusing your attention upon it. Observe your thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting in the present moment and you are already improving your reaction, because you are making it more conscious. Remember that observing a reaction takes some of your power out of it, which frees you from that reaction to that degree. You can use that freedom to more carefully select a response that better aligns with your interesets. This turns the wave into a spiral.

When we permit ourselves to be consumed by a reaction, we fall victim to the wheel of life. We turn the wave into a circle. Because we repeat our reactions, circumstances do not improve. In fact, our circumstances gradually decline. Why? Because life must progress one way or another. Nothing stays the same. Change happens and it demands that we change with it. The more you resist change, the more change works against you. Repeating your old reactions proves to be unhealthy. The anger and stress wear on you, deteriorating your wellbeing further and further. So you are not really repeating your old reactions, you are reacting more and more destructively.

Think of it this way. Let’s say that your negative reaction to a setback or letdown is to get drunk. Getting drunk is an apt metaphor for a negative emotional reaction for many reasons. Under the influence of a negative emotional reaction you cannot think straight. Your judgment is off. You are prone to say and do things that you will regret. You lose your balance, your self-control, and behave irresponsibly.

Each time that you get drunk in response to a problem, the alcohol progressively impacts your body and mind in a destructive way. Drunks behave more and more badly until they create so much havoc in their lives that they hit bottom. Then they realize they either sober up or go completely mad, or die. The same is true of our habitual emotional reactions to the waves of life. Your old emotional patterns wear upon your mind and body more and more destructively, causing you to create more and more serious problems for yourself and others.

So repeating your old emotional reactions turns the wave into a circle. Like a spinning wheel in a mud ditch, the circle of your same old reactions spins the wheel of your life lower and lower, generating deeper difficulties for you.

The way out may seem slow, but it proves sufficient to meet your needs. Wherever you are in life, begin taking back your power to respond, so you can apply that power to responding more and more wisely. Wisdom comes, at least in part, from conscious experience. Every experience you have gone through offers you an education in how to live. By observing your reactions and considering how you might respond more wisely, more in line with your true needs and the needs of others, you bring more wisdom into your response, which brings improvement to your circumstances.

Whatever your goals in life, use the power to improve your reactions to help you to achieve those goals. It is not enough to simply work for what you want when you feel inspired by hope. When you find your inspiration turning into anxiety or disappointment, work on freeing yourself from those negative reactions. Do this, not by resisting how you feel, but by observing it, with the intention of responding more wisely. That way of dealing with loss in and of itself turns the wheel of your life upward.

It matters less what happens to you than how you deal with it. You can always deal with what happens a bit more wisely, which guarantees that you achieve more of what you really want in life. Begin observing your reactions to everything and everyone on a more consistent basis. When someone says or does something that disturbs you, instead of focusing all of your attention on what that person said or did, focus some of your attention on how you are reacting to it. When life does not go the way you wish, when you see others achieving goals that you had hoped you would be achieving by now, even when you face severe tragedy or crisis, observe your reactions with the intention of improving your reaction to whatever degree possible. Thus, you grow into a more free, wise and capable individual, and this translates into achieving greater results.

Observe what you are doing, thinking, feeling, and saying about any situation, and intend to be more wise. Instead of reacting so much, you will be wiser. The wiser you are, the less you have to do, because you find more efficient ways of getting things done. The wiser you are the more you let things work out well instead of wasting your energy trying to fix things in a way that only breaks them further.

Bob Lancer leads individuals, businesses, families, and associations to fulfill their greatest dreams. He does this through a wide variety of venues, including his WSB radio show, Bob Lancer’s Parenting Solutions, a show that focuses as much on the raising of ourselves and of our society as on the raising of children. The show has been on the air since 1995 and broadcasts to 35 states over the radio, and worldwide over the internet.

He is the author of numerous books and he has created dozens of motivational recordings on his themes.

Bob Lancer transforms audiences through his dynamic keynotes and seminars on parenting, marriage, and personal and professional development at live events, including conferences around the nation and overseas. He has been leading his audiences to greater personal and professional success as a public speaker, seminar leader, consultant and author for over 20 years and his work has been featured on CNN and other network television stations, in national magazines and in major newspapers.

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