Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power of Proaction

A dear elderly woman I knew once came to me several times, fretting that her family was making noises to the effect that she needed to move out of her home and into a care facility. Her son, and then her daughter, had made multiple visits to see her. At each visit, they had gently, but pointedly, suggested that she was too frail to live alone. They were worried that she could no longer afford to maintain her home, that she wasn't eating, that she wasn't taking her medications properly, and they feared for her safety. On face value, she was indignant that her children would make such "accusations." But she confessed to me that in her heart, she suspected they were right. Though she inwardly recognized that her situation was precarious, she felt that admitting it would somehow diminish her value in the eyes of her family.

She also began to realize that if she didn't make the decision to move, there might soon come a time that the decision would be made for her, either because of declining health or declining financial circumstances. She could see the writing on the wall and knew that at some point, she would be forced to move. Her resistance to moving into a care facility was partly an effort to save face before her children and partly natural human resistance to external control. No one likes to be forced to do anything.

Over and over, we talked about it. Slowly, she began to realize that ultimately, at that moment in time, she had the power to choose her circumstances. That though her children were concerned for her, her decision to move into an assisted living facility was her decision and that, regardless of the fact they had suggested it, making the move was not "giving in" to them. It was in fact, making an informed choice for her future. She was in control.

How often do we give our power away? How often do we see a set of circumstances coming at us like a train speeding toward us on a track, while we wait for the impact, paralyzed by fear. If only we could accept the reality of the impending train and respond on our terms, instead of passively accepting that we'll be left to pick up the pieces long after impact.

We can, in fact, do just that. We can recognize that sometimes, circumstances suggest we must take a different path. We can accept that we have a choice in how we respond. We can own the circumstances, re-frame the situation, and make it our choice. If we do so, we can be re-energized and empowered. Choosing to be proactive is choosing to reclaim our power.

My elderly friend chose it. Instead of feeling forced into new circumstances and reluctantly letting go, she chose to move and she chose where to move. Her decision to accept her new life sooner, rather than later, preserved her options. Once she owned the decision, she even admitted to being excited by the new adventure. She looked forward to meeting new friends, having new activities, and even to making her new space her own with her taste in decorating. She chose to view her choice as an adventure instead of a defeat.

Whether it's the end of a relationship, an impending foreclosure, a change in financial circumstances, or a job that seems to be slipping away from us, we have a choice. We can choose to be reactive or proactive. We can choose to spend our energy screaming, "It isn't FAIR!" or we can choose to invest our energy in our future with the promise of dividends paid in peace.


  1. Very thought provoking notions. I think this post also very much highlights the wisdom that only age can bring us. I think we spend the first half of our lives rebelling against everyone else's initial thoughts or reactions to us, and the second half rebelling against our own thoughts or reactions to our ourselves

  2. Interesting insight. Age certainly offers a sort of wisdom that only seems accessible through the passage of time. If only I'd known when I was twenty what I know now. :-)