a) feel like you get nothing done?
b) feel like you’re making no progress as a human being.
c) feel like you’re being pulled by strings in so many different directions that you don’t have time to think for yourself?
d) all of the above.
If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re probably REACTIVE, not PROACTIVE. In this here article, I’m gonna explain the difference between the two, and the power of proactivity.
Proactive vs. Reactive
Proactive: You plan and act before stuff happens.
I.e Taking the initiative. Sailing the ship from A to B. Grabbing the day by the scruff of the neck, and doing what you want with it.
Reactive: You react when stuff happens.
I.e, you’re bossed by outside circumstances. You sail wherever the wind takes you. You take the day’s events as they come.
Another questionairre. Do you do any of the following?
- Wake up without a plan.
- Your emotional well-being depends on how many likes you get on Facebook.
- First thing you do is check social media in the morning.
- Mood is overly dependent on the weather.
- To-do list decided by email inbox.
- Food choices decided by whether you’re in a rush.
- Facebook feed contains everyone and their mums.
- You “surf” sites like Youtube aimlessly.
- You go to bed when good TV finishes.
If the answer to these questions are yes, you’re reactive. You let things that you can’t directly control heavily influence your day. It could be people’s opinions on social media, people’s requests for your time at work or at home, the weather, your diet is based on whatever happens that day…
In short, your drifting like a leaf in the wind, at the mercy of every gust of wind going. At the end of the day, you might have moved a millimetre in 20 different directions, apart from the one you actually want to be going in. (Assuming you know where you want to go.)
Let’s try another set of questions.
- You wake up with an attack plan.
- You have a morning routine, that come rain or shine, you do.
- You work yourself into a positive mental state via said morning routine.
- You decide at the start of the work-day what a successful day will look like.
- You work on things that are important to you, before you even check the inbox.
- Diet is non-negotiable. You don’t compromise on health and taste.
- The only surfing you do is on waves. YouTube and internet are powerful tools that you expertly use to find out what you want to know.
- You carefully curate your Facebook feed to access what you want to know.
- You go to bed when you need to, not when House of Cards finishes.
If that sounds like you, you’re proactive. Congrats.
Most of us are probably somewhere in between. I myself have to continually reinforce proactive behaviours like journalling, meditation, planning etc to avoid slipping into reactivity.
Why be Proactive?
To give you an idea of the benefits of proactivity, I’m going to share with you Two Days in the Life: Reactive & Proactive.
I start the day with a vague idea of what I want to do. I look at the clock, and think “I’m gonna be late if I don’t get out the door.” Morning routine? Out the window. On the bus, I realised I’ve forgotten my book. 40 minute bus ride, wasted. Great. I arrive at the office feeling stressed and totally unprepared for the day. With no plan to anchor me, I’m left at the will of whatever urgent non-important thing my boss wants done.
I’ll maybe go see some clients, depending on how I feel. If I’ve had a great day, I’ll pop into 5-10 different businesses to make a pitch. If not, I’ll procrastinate and find lame excuses why that business won’t be interested. Again, reactive.
I leave work having not done anything to advance the cause of our company, and get home tired in mind and body, with no willpower to do anything but watch Stephen Colbert on Youtube. Of course, when it gets to 10pm, I think “screw it, let’s just watch more.” (it is Stephen Colbert, but still.) Thus, I’m more likely to be reactive the next day.
When I’m reactive, my time is spent trying to keep my head above water as I’m swept by the river of life into the pool of mediocrity. Instead of going to bed feeling a little wiser than when I got up, I dread going in the next day for another endless cycle of other people’s flotsam.
Reactivity is spinning your wheels. A lot of effort, a lot of noise, a lot of huffing and puffing, but you don’t go anywhere.
When I’m proactive, I wake up feeling charged. I wake up not with a plan, but with a mission. A weight lifting session, cold shower, meditation, and journalling primes my mind for the day ahead. After, I’ll jot down the 1 most important thing for that day, which if done, I can classify the day as a success.
The morning is relaxed, but purposeful, which continues with a reading session on the commute to work. I get into work. I release a full-belly laugh at the thought of checking my emails or answering the phone – there are far more important things to do this day.
After working on my 1 thing, I’ll make exactly 20 phone calls to arrange meetings for the rest of the week. After, I’ll prepare some presentations, then meet clients later in the day. Thus, I’ve pushed the needle, and advanced the noble cause of our company. At the end of the day, I feel satisfied, not stressed. I feel super-charged and inspired, not physically and mentally exhuasted.
Returning home, I’ll take a shower, then decide on how best utilise my time to prepare for the following day. I review in my journal. Progress has been made and wisdom has been accumulated this day. I go to bed early, excited to take my mission to the world the next day.
Reactive = stressed, exhuasted, uninspired, trodden into the ground, pulled in every direction, and utterly unproductive with emphasis on the urgent, rather than the important.
Proactive = relaxed, powerful, inspired, super-charged, laser-like focus on one direction, and productive with emphasis on the important, rather than the urgent.
Which one will help us build the world of our dreams? Don’t know about you, but I’mma take the latter.
So, question for you.
What are the areas in your life where you’re REACTIVE instead of PROACTIVE?
- At work.
- With people.
- In your spare time.
And how can you make yourself more proactive?
Dream Big Start Small.