“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.”
- Rita Mae Brown
Initially when I hear the terms “defense” and “offense” I think of sports. The offense is responsible for scoring points, the defense is responsible for denying points attempting to be scored by the opponents. While there are times when the defense can score points for their team, that isn’t their job, and when it occurs is an extra bonus that wasn’t expected.
When we use these terms to define how we live our lives, either “offensively” or “defensively”, the meaning, interestingly enough is quite similar. By choosing to live offensively, we are choosing to seek fulfillment and success and are more likely to achieve a life that is beyond our dreams. However, by choosing to live defensively, we hinder our own progress and make it twice as difficult to create the life that deep down I have a feeling nearly everyone desires – one that lives up to their full potential, one that is full of genuine love and affection and one that makes us want to get out of bed in the morning. Let me explain:
By Living Defensively:
1. We live out of fear, not hope and thereby are choosing to run from what we are uncertain of instead of addressing it. (Click here to read more about what your fear is trying to tell you.)
2. We constantly look for negatives and pitfalls. When we are too busy looking down to avoid tripping, we are by default not looking up and ahead. As a young girl taking gymnastics, I can remember being told when on the balance beam to keep my chin up and look at the end of the beam, not immediately in front of me if I wanted to maintain my balance. Well, the same can be said for making progress in life – trust that as long as you keep your eye on the goal, you will help yourself arrive at your destination more quickly and successfully.
3. We attack others, often unnecessarily. No matter what others say, we immediately assume the worst and this does not bode well for creating healthy relationships. Remember to give people the benefit of the doubt initially. If they then give you reason to act defensively, extract them from your life as best as you can.
4. We put up unnecessary boundaries. I have always been a proponent of creating healthy boundaries whether it be with your family, friends, colleagues or even your partner in order to maintain that air of mystery; however, sometimes when we are so afraid that others will hurt us, we put people at too far of a distance and never give ourselves the opportunity to build potentially healthy and long lasting friendships and relationships.
5. We become stagnant. When we choose to act defensively, we are on guard, watching what others are doing and not paying attention to what we should be doing. This inhibits any ability to move forward.
6. Our creativity is limited. If we are so busy worrying about what might happen and trying to prevent it, we are unable to think outside of the box and hope for what could happen that we would like to see materialize.
7. We are more unlikely to try and see something from others’ perspectives. Living defensively is the decision to refuse to understand why someone does what they do, especially if initially we don’t understand why. While stepping into someone else’s shoes doesn’t guarantee we will acquiesce and be more understanding, it at least leaves the door open for the potential.
8. We are more likely to be followers, than leaders. When we become consumed with protecting ourselves, we begin to cage ourselves in, ultimately going nowhere. We become either isolated or part of a flock of other people who also are living back on their heels. Conversely, leaders must be living life in a “leaning forward” sort of stance, and living defensively will forever have you leaning back.
9. We begin to repel others who want to help us, love us and uplift us. While living defensively may seem like a safe way to live your life, you will actually be pushing away those who could bring more love and optimism into your life. Being defensively is akin to being cynical and negative, and who wants to be around this type of energy? Only others of the same mind. No thank you.
On the flipside:
By Living Offensively:
1. We live with confidence
2. We look for opportunities
3. We become the artist of our lives
4. We live more authentically
5. We are able to find true contentment and fulfillment
6. We become more accepting
7. We are more willing to try something new and different
8. We become more supportive of others’ dreams
9. We attract to us inspiring, positive people
10. We achieve success
11. We find and establish quality relationships
While there are events in our lives that cause us to live a bit more defensively than we would prefer (job loss, heartbreak, death, tragedy, etc) try to first come to terms with why you are acting defensively, address these needs, and understand the power such negative behavior is having on your life, health and well-being.
When you recognize that defensive behavior is not beneficial, you will hopefully accept the idea of living more offensively. While it isn’t a surefire way to instantly create what you want and eliminate obstacles and pain from occurring, it most certainly is an approach that strengthens your foundation of self-confidence, a healthy social circle and close relationships, and better place to fall and thus spring forward if things don’t always work out.