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The Key to Living Life With Love and Joy

I’m in the unique position of spending my days listening to what is actually going on in the minds of ordinary people who live typical lives. They reveal their thoughts and feelings to me with the hope that together we can rout what is keeping them from love and joy.


It always comes down to one key thing.  But before I tell you what that one thing is, there is some good news and some bad news.


The bad news is, as Einstein put it “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.”


The good news is that a shift in perspective is always possible and we do have a choice.


The key to love and joy is in being able to live responsively rather than reactively.


I remember when I went into labor with my first child. Even though I had taken birth classes and thought I was prepared, when the pain hit I felt my mind scream “NO!” and my body tighten. “This is BAD” was the strong reaction that began coursing through me, creating further tightening in my body. Fortunately, a tough-minded, good-hearted nurse came in and said, “You have a long way to go so you better get focused.” It felt like a slap in the face to the part of me that wanted sympathy and a remedy. But the emerging mother in me wanted my child even more. That was why I was there after all. Fighting what was happening because I didn’t like it was only making it worse. Becoming aware that I could make a conscious choice was the beginning of a shift. I was determined to make use of every contraction as a step closer to holding my child. I was now “responding” to the pain.


When it comes to love, there is no greater gift to give than responsiveness. It means that in the midst of a tense moment, you choose to give back something better than you got from your partner. It means seeing the best in your partner when they have lost touch with it themselves. It means choosing to be positive and solution focused in hard times rather than negative and problem focused. It means being a carrier of hope rather than hopelessness because hope is necessary for being resilient enough to respond to all of the challenges that love and life bring us.


Notice the difference between being relationally reactive versus relationally responsive in these common thoughts.


Reactive Thoughts:                           Responsive Thoughts:


I’ll prove I’m right.                                    I’ll do the right thing.


Who’s to blame?                                        How can I act responsibly?


I have to find the problem.                    I want to find a solution.        


Things are out of control!                      I can maintain inner calm


This isn’t fair!                                             Justice is being true to myself.


Uncertainty scares me.                           Unseen possibilities are exciting.                 



The power of reactive thinking is immense. It can interfere with our responsive selves desire and commitment to be at peace. But we have a choice.


There is no better place to practice moving from reactive thoughts to responsiveness than in relationships. Think of the kind of encounter that most upsets you. Make a promise to yourself: next time it happens you will stop, take a deep breath, and notice any reactive thoughts. Just this noticing is enough to loosen the grip of reactivity and free your responsive self.


Love and joy are the fruits of living responsively.