I was born in Eastern Europe and the love for all things soccer began at an early age. I watched games on TV with my dad, played on my varsity soccer teams in high school and university, and got the chance to see a few live games in the stadiums of Spain. This may sound a bit cliche but I always looked for a take away, some important life lessons from my days on the field that could benefit my life. One of those lessons was something all my coaches emphasized.
“Stay ahead of the ball!”
When I would get tired of running around the soccer field, my temptation was to stand still and wait for the ball to come to me. It was never long before I would hear my coach yelling from the sidelines, “Stay ahead of the ball!” In soccer, the best players learn to anticipate where the ball is going and run into the open space creating scoring opportunities. “Stay ahead of the ball” was a cue to take the initiative, to think about where the ball would be instead of standing still and reacting to it when it landed. Life happens; a new project lands on your desk at work, the water heater quits working, the car gets a flat tire, the love of your life walks out. It’s so easy to simply react, to let our first emotions overwhelm and get the best of us.
In general, reactive people tend to “wait and see”, then deal with things as they happen. They can show up to life unprepared and react to what life brings them. Reactive people sometimes struggle with their health, finances, and setting life goals. But what if we could reflect and choose how we reacted instead?
Reflective people often pause before they react. Because they do, they feel less overwhelmed and experience less emotional swings. They can see a situation in front of them clearly and approach it calmly taking the time to choose how they will deal with a problem.
So how can we practice being more reflective than reactive?
- Choose ahead of time how you will deal with a situation. Craft a plan and then stick with it. For example, if you’re an impulse shopper, decide to take some time–a few hours, or even a day before you buy what’s in your shopping cart. Is it really something you still feel passionate about owning?
- Choose to contemplate what means the most to you in life. When you decide what you value most it’s easier to shrug off the smaller things. For example, if you value spending time with your family, the last minute project at work that can wait until Monday will be easier to put aside because you’ve already prioritized that on weekends, family comes first.
- Choose to connect with a higher power. There are times when you will be pressed to the limit and studies have shown that people who are spiritual, who pray, even once a week, and go to church have a more balanced emotional life and are able to deal with higher amounts of stress. One study even showed an increase in lifespan by 26%. There’s something very therapeutic in giving to God something you don’t think you can handle.
Certainly, there are times when it’s appropriate to be reactive. We all have plenty of decisions to make in-the-moment. There are times when we need to be flexible and adapt quickly. However, the ability to reflect provides a clear advantage if you strive to improve any area of your life. For more on this topic check out Tom Evans’ series entitled “7 Questions for Intentional Living” at MaxLifeEvents.com/questions. This is a powerful resource that can help you stay ahead of the ball in life.
Presenter, MaxLife Events