There is a story of an old poor drunkard man with two sons. One followed in his father’s footsteps and had to struggle with life as a drunkard, the other became a prominent businessman. Each of them is asked: “Why are you the way you are?” and they all have the same answer: “My father was a drunkard!”. The same parents, same events but different outcomes. This always happens to us in our daily lives in one way or the other, we meet so many circumstances and our way of thinking- whether being reactive or proactive- determines where our destination is.
Being proactive- the opposite of being reactive- is the mindset or attitude that one can own and be ready for things even before they happen. It is more about taking responsibility for our actions and ourselves. Proactive people are changemakers because they don’t wait for luck or chances but take actions to make things better. From our story, the child who became a prominent businessman was proactive enough to believe in having the potential that would turn his life around and live a better life than the way he was born.
On the other hand, reactive people live as victims of circumstances. The drunkard poor son in the story was very reactive to his situation. He thought the father being a drunkard and being poor determined his future and did not act to make changes. He was like “Afterall what can come out of a drunkard’s son, I am born like this and that is my life.” His reaction determined his destination. Being reactive is even more than this, it is more about letting your life be dictated by external things and then you use them as an excuse for your failure or any negative outcome in your life.
Reactive people also have a kind of language they use like: “That is me, and that is how I am”, “Only if my parents helped me get that”, and so many more. Also, we often ignore the fact that whatever we speak unto ourselves, our minds conceive and takes them as the truth which in the end gives us that negative attitude that we are unable and powerless.
So, are you reactive or proactive? Or maybe you need to adjust your proactive attitude. Below are some of the key behaviors that can help. But first it is more about making up your mindset as Stephen R. Covey once said: “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” And that is what proactivity is all about, make the right decisions for what you want.
Anticipate and plan. Being proactive requires you to foresee and prepare for things in advance. It requires knowing where you were, where you are and where you are going. This gives you control over things and you are the one to make them happen. Don’t make decisions in a vacuum, every decision you take today is taking you in the future. After anticipating and planning, prevent.
Prevent. Proactive people do all they can to prevent the foreseen obstacles so that they won’t be roadblocks stopping them along the way. Prevent circumstances like moments of anger to control you or your actions or excitements control your decisions. This goes in line with values you have set for your life. Whenever you have guidelines for your life, you are protected to stay in your lane of proactivity. If you have set yourself in the way of feeling positive and capable about yourself, you will always be in the right way of proactivity if you take action.
Take action. Proactive people do not have procrastination as an option. You must take actions and feel yourself as part of the solutions. Putting in consideration that they are things that you can influence and those you can’t, put more efforts in what you can change. Make contribution to your work and even in the community around you either in your workplace, home, or religious group.
One more thing to put in consideration is we can’t control everything around us. There are always two circles of circumstances in our lives: a circle of concern which includes things that we can get concerned about like the country’s economic conditions, attitudes in society, the way people drive their cars etc. The actual list would be on an individual basis and all these are things we can have a concern about but can’t influence or control. There is also a circle of influence concerning the things we can influence or control either directly, like the amount of time we do something or indirectly like the elections in your community. Proactive people put more effort in things they can control, things in their circle of influence.
All the external forces act as a stimulus that we respond to. Between the stimulus and the response is your greatest power--you have the freedom to choose your response. One of the most important things you choose is what you say. Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language--I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language-I can’t, I must, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do--they have no choice. But I believe you have a choice and you are responsible for your own life and I believe you can do more if you believe in yourself. Stay proactive!