Proactive or Reactive?

Which one are you – the one who responds on the fly to whatever is happening around you, or the one who plans your day and follows the plan? Being proactive or reactive can make an enormous difference to your output, and your stress levels!

One of the distinguishing attributes of highly successful people is that they lean far more towards being ‘proactive’ in all aspects of their life, and for very good reason. Consider for a moment just how stressful the alternative can be, i.e. for a reactive person they are always at the mercy of whatever happens to them – a ‘victim’ in many ways, and often with limited resources, time or ability to react appropriately under duress, so it’s very disturbing and incredibly unproductive. The ideal might appear to be very ‘Zen’ on the surface, but the reality is that ‘reactive’ individuals tend to accomplish far less with their time and yet create more problems for themselves in the process.

Proactive people, on the other hand, start with a plan – and I don’t mean just writing a new list because the one that you wrote yesterday didn’t get ticked off – I mean a real, tangible approach to their day, week or year ahead, with some considered thought and direction behind it. They take out much of the stress by already ‘anticipating’ the road ahead and planning how to tackle things before they become a problem. For example, suppose that you’re a salesperson and have access to your customer orders each day – if you make it a habit to check every morning and find that there is an unforeseen delay with one of the deliveries, then you can set about fixing the problem for that customer before they even know there is a problem. It saves a lot of time and worry for them; reduces your incoming calls from cranky customers, and makes you look like the hero in their eye’s because you are always ‘on top’ of things. Little would they know that you are only ‘on top’ of things because you planned to start each day by reviewing your orders and resolving any issues in a proactive, rather than a reactive, manner. I’m sure you can think of many more such examples for yourself.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you control every situation, foresee every eventuality, or prevent unexpected things from happening in your life, but it does reduce the incidence of those things, making your day-to-day experience much more pleasant!

Aim to develop a proactive approach to your work and you’ll soon reap the benefits with increased productivity and less worry. Then, as you strengthen that habit, you can start to apply the same principles to those other, equally important aspects of your life.

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