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Proactive or Reactive: What Kind of Life are You Leading?

February 23, 2020 | by Bluma Gordon

Answering these 8 questions will give you the answer.

`In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey lists being proactive as one of the most conducive attitudes for a productive, well-lived life. Being proactive means taking responsibility and creating a life situation rather than responding to one. While proactive people acknowledge that they’re responsible for their lives, reactive people allow outside circumstances to dictate their life’s course.

In Auschwitz, Victor Frankel, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, hit upon a striking revelation about free will. While we can’t always choose our life’s circumstances, we are always left with an element of free will. Frankel said that a space exists between every stimulus and its reaction, and in that space lies one’s power to choose. How you choose determines the kind of life you create and the kind of person you become.

Proactive people recognize that no matter what circumstance they find themselves in, the power to choose always exits.

Are you living a reactive or proactive life? Here are some questions you can ask yourselves to help you find out.

1. Do I have goals and a plan to put them to action?

Reactive people usually don’t have a clear set of goals or a practical, sustainable way to implement them. Proactive people have clear knowledge of their values and goals and a process to help realize them.

Proactivity Tip: Take a few minutes to articulate your goals in writing. Write down five personal, spiritual, business, or family-related goals.

Then think about what you can do to achieve each goal. What action and practical steps can you take to turn your goals into a reality? Will you need to make any changes in your life?

2. Do I take initiative or wait for others to act instead?

Reactive people are not initiators and let the behaviors of others dictate their life’s course. Proactive people take responsibility and do whatever’s in their control to make a positive impact.

Proactivity tip: The next time you come across a problem, don’t wait for someone else to solve it. Instead, think: Is there anything I can do to improve the situation? What’s in my control to change?

3. Do I think before I react? Are my reactions based on emotions or values?

Reactive people live on impulse. Without a clear system of values, they blame their reactions to on changing circumstances or fluctuating moods. Proactive people don’t allow external situations to influence their character, behavior, or values. They act in accordance with their values, and are not dictated by ever-changing circumstances or emotions.

Proactivity tip: Take advantage of your power to choose within the space between stimulus and response. Before reacting to an upsetting situation on an entirely emotional level, take a moment to reflect on your values. How will your values dictate your response?

4. Do I own up to my mistakes?

Reactive people don’t take responsibility for their lives—or their mistakes. Proactive people realize that they are fully responsible for the consequences of their actions and try to repair problems they created.

Proactivity tip: Make a habit of reflecting on your past behavior for a few minutes a week. Is there anything you did that had harmful consequences or impacted you or others negatively? What can you do to rectify it?

5. Do I more often mope about problems or work up solutions? Am I problem-oriented or solution-oriented?

Reactive people allow themselves to get stuck in their problems. Proactive people don’t dwell on problems, but focus on solutions and that which is in their ability to change.

Proactivity tip: Think of three problems in your life. Are there solutions to any of these problems that you haven’t yet explored? And if there’s nothing you can do about them, is dwelling on your problems helpful or detrimental?

6. Do I have a negative attitude toward life?

Reactive people use negativity, bitterness, and blaming others as an excuse for avoiding responsibility. Proactive people view negativity as an obstacle to productivity and choose to focus on the positive actions they can take to make a difference.

Proactivity tip: Reflect on your overall attitude toward life or a specific life situation. Is your attitude negative? Is the negativity influencing your proactivity levels? What can you do to change your attitude?

7. Do I dwell often on the could-haves, would-haves and should-haves of life? Am I past-oriented or future-oriented?

Reactive people allow the past—their upbringing, mistakes, and others’ past wrongdoings–to dictate and shape their future. Proactive people allow the past to inspire and positively impact their future. They don’t get stuck in the past, but take lessons from the past.

Proactivity tip: Take time to think about past grudges, regrets, or grievances. How can you reframe your attitude toward your past and use it to positively impact your future? If there’s nothing you can do about past hurts, what steps can you take to promote self-healing?

8. Do I play the blame game? Do I focus more often on what I can control, or what I cannot?

There are two kind of problems in life: those that are within our ability to change and those outside our realm of control. Reactive people focus on external problems outside their locus of control, such as other people’s disturbing behaviors, or circumstances they simply can’t change. Proactive people focus on that which is in their power to change, such as their own efforts or mindset.

Proactivity tip: Make a dividing line down a piece of paper. On one side, write down the problems you can’t solve. On the other side, write down problems that are within your control to solve.

Are you making an effort to work though problems that you can solve? Or are you more focused on what you can’t change? If you’re more focused on problems outside of your control, what can you do to shift your focus?

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