in life

Are You Living Responsively?

You shouldn’t be. Instead, you should be initiating.

Chris Guillebeau outlined yesterday nine ways to guarantee (un)happiness. One of them?

Respond instead of initiate. Take no responsibility for your schedule or preferences. Let other people set the agenda for your life. Take the lead for your schedule from your Inbox, voicemail, or someone else’s demands.

I’ve never been good at taking orders. When I was young I’d always have that asterisk on my report card that read, “Doesn’t Follow Instructions”. What can I say, I was a nonconformist from the beginning.

We hear often that the only choice we have is the choice of how we respond to the hand we’re dealt. And while certainly some things are out of our control, I believe the better mantra is that we have the choice to initiate – to take charge – to set our own agenda and make our own plans. To take the lead.

In fact, I believe that to be the key to success – the key to personal fulfillment – is to life life on your own terms. Not terms someone else has created for you.

That doesn’t neccesarily mean you need to quit your job to start a company and travel the globe. It may mean staying exactly where you are right now, because you choose to do so. 

It’s easy and comfortable to live responsively. To take things as they come. To react to external forces. To speak when spoken to.

But you’ll forever hold yourself back if you simply react. Instead, start initiating. Take charge. Become a leader. Think proactively about the next step and don’t be afraid to, every once in a while, take that bold leap.

Add Your Voice



  1. Amen brother. Amen. I talk all the time about being conscious about everything you do. Understanding why you do it and knowing that you’re making a choice to do it.

    Even when you default to a state of unconsciousness, that’s a choice. Regardless of what most people assume, the act of really thinking is a choice. You can choose not to exert the effort of really using your mind to direct your life (which most people do) or you can choose to be conscious of every step you take.

    Don’t let anything or anyone else prescribe your course for you. You might as well be dead.

    A Life on Your Terms – Name it. Make it. Live it.

    • To follow up/echo Liz – what do you think is holding you back, Lolly? What’s standing in your way? Without sounding all therapy-ish, sometimes it helps just to get those thoughts out there so you can work through them. But I promise that you CAN find that “control” in your life.

  2. For some reason I can’t be peaceful if I’m taking things as they come, it stresses me out. Instead when I choose what I want to do, I find myself smiling. I think it’s all about having intention and choosing what we really want to do.

    Thanks for this post Matt! :)

    • I’m the same way. I learned very early on that I could not live reactively – that it absolutely drives me insane to feel as though someone else is controlling my actions. Regardless of who you are, where you are, and what you do, we all have the power to be in control of our own lives and the choices we make. Cheers!

  3. I think the key to achieve what you are talking about here is to create your own definition of success based on your core values and live and work by that.

  4. In the U.S.A. and most other countries the official education system teaches people to follow orders and not think for themselves in most cases. There is always a need for these people, but when there is a shift, for example, the initiators, the leaders start outsourcing jobs to another country to cut costs, those that only follow orders are left trying to find a job. One might argue, “not everyone can be a leader”… well why not?

    • You know, I think that everyone can be a leader of their own life.

      You don’t have to be creating an empire to be a leader. If you work for someone, you can work for them on your terms. For example, one where you are empowered to take charge of your duties and you can direct your work as long as you are getting the results you were hired for.

  5. I would say that your outlook on life changes once you have kids, at least it did for me.

    I don’t live life so much on my own terms any more as it has to revolve around family life.

    I do still have things I want to pursue and achieve in life though but they don’t necessarily come first.