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Published on March 29, 2021

Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive

Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive

For us to know how to be proactive and not reactive, we first need to know what these terms mean. When we are reactive to problems, we react to previous events instead of attempting to anticipate future ones. When we decide to be proactive, we choose to act on a situation before this situation becomes a crisis.[1] Managers must be “strategically proactive,” as I like to say, so they can do their regular day-to-day work and still have time to spend on improvement efforts.

How exactly can you become more proactive and not reactive to become a better, more thoughtful innovative leader? The good news is that there are several ways for you to develop proactive leadership.

In this article, you will learn why you should think long-term, seek to understand others, develop organization skills, aim for 80/20, be open to ideas, and have a calm demeanor to set you apart as a leader and are excellent ways to show proactiveness to your team.[2][3]

Why Should You Be Proactive and Not Reactive?

Before I go into more detail about proactiveness, I would like to say that any person can be a better leader by being more proactive.[4] It is difficult to go wrong when pre-planning, developing problem-solving and listening skills, and keeping in touch with your team becomes a habit for you. Proactive continuous leadership improvement is necessary, expected, and beneficial to us all.

Dwight Eisenhower once said,

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

A condition for planning is being proactive.

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In simple terms, great leaders are proactive. Mediocre ones only react. Instead of waiting for events to occur and having to handle a crisis unprepared, why not engage in strategic planning from the beginning with the intent to anticipate problems and come up with solutions?

Being a proactive leader must be your only choice in leadership if your ambitions are to advance your career forward in business.

6 Strategic Ways to Be More Proactive and Not Reactive

To be a more proactive leader, you need to engage in pre-plaining and attempt to anticipate events. Try the following activities, adapt them to your area of practice, and test and see if they enhance your position as a leader.

The following are excellent exercises to make you into a more proactive leader and not reactive.

1. Think Long-Term

You must first understand that short-term thinking is antagonistic to the idea of proactive leadership because today’s short-term goals should, at one point, have already been yesterday’s long-term goals. Reactive leaders often fail to see the big picture, which is one of the core elements of proactive leadership.

Successful leaders understand the value of long-term thinking and avoid the baits of short-term returns. Ingvar Kamprad, Swedish billionaire and founder of IKEA, once said,[5]

“I decided that the stock market was not an option for IKEA. I knew that only a long-term perspective could secure our growth plans, and I didn’t want IKEA to become dependent on financial institutions.”

Have you been engaging in long-term thinking lately? I hope so. Long-term thinking has helped IKEA to be a corporate giant. It can help you be a giant leader! Unless an immediate emergency arrives, strive to think long-term to become a proactive instead of a reactive leader.

2. Seek to Understand Others

To be a proactive leader, you must seek to understand others. Remember, “Leadership is influence,” as Maxwell eloquently said.[6] By seeking to understand the members of your team—their likes, challenges, aspirations, and frustrations—you will gain important insights on how to influence them appropriately. Without having the capacity to understand others, it is impossible to lead because leadership is applied in a group activity.

Be compassionate, loyal, and full of integrity because these attributes will help you show your team that you are committed to understanding them. Remember that one of your main tasks as a proactive leader is to be trustworthy. Seek to understand others! It will help you build trust with your team.

As a Department Chair of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) without being an African-American, I rely on first understanding others before I even attempt to propose a course of action. Understanding is key in the work that I do. I need the influence to advance the unit forward. My vision to understand my team becomes a strategy for having a buy-out later on in my long-term strategy.

3. Develop Organizational Skills

Proactive leaders don’t have time to spend reacting to the environment since time is of the essence for them. Therefore, wasting time isn’t an option for them.

Don’t waste your time, develop organizational skills, aim high and think long-term. In a previous article, I stated that “aiming high is almost always synonymous with aiming long-term.” Let’s say it one more time: “Aiming high long term can’t be accomplished without organizational skills because proactive organized leaders like you and me often check on their long-term goals and daily needs.”

Make sure to have your files organized, have an agenda with deadlines, manage your appointments efficiently, learn to delegate tasks, and reasonably engage in decision-making. You will need these organizational attributes if you want to be a proactive leader.

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4. Aim for 80/20

Understanding Eisenhower’s Box, former President Eisenhower’s productivity tool, can be of great help for you to better understand the 80/20 rule.[7] He once said,

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Clearly, Eisenhower believed that urgent and important were not the same thing. Well stated! Proactive leaders understand that although team improvement is important (20% of the time), the focus should be on your regular work (80% of the time) because we often do our best work not on urgent but on important tasks.

Leaders who have more time to think and plan will execute tasks more effectively. Aim for 80×20, period.

5. Be Open to Ideas

I was once told by a close friend that people are living encyclopedias. This thought made me realize that everyone has something interesting to share. Ed Krok believes that as well:[8]

“Our employees are often our best source of information.”

I happen to agree with him wholeheartedly on this assertion. A proactive leader leverages the information shared by his employees. I most certainly do, I must add.

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As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”

In his book, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, Joshua Wolf Shenk writes about how open to ideas John Lennon and Paul McCartney were to one another. One would compose and write something and the other would complement what was written and vice-versa. Clearly, these geniuses of music understand the power of being open to ideas. Proactive leaders practice exactly that to strategically plan future events that are to come.

6. Have a Calm Demeanor

Proactive leaders don’t scream at others because they understand the value of not making emotional decisions. They prefer to make objective decisions planned ahead of time using elements of strategic thinking. As Miki Markovich says,[9]

“Proactive leaders are compassionate, loyal, integrity-filled, straightforward, calm, direct, fair, polite, hopeful and thoughtful.”

A reactive leader reacts to immediate stimuli and may have the habit of managing themselves poorly, making screaming behavior a predictable event. Don’t be like them. Dare to be different and focus on inspiring others by being calm and controlled. Your team will appreciate this gesture and your influence will increase.

Final Thoughts

It pays off to be a proactive leader versus being a reactive one. Reactive leaders think short-term and rarely apply their 80×20 rule—that is a mistake and is rooted in small thinking.

Big is good. Go big or go bigger! In this article, I presented six ways for you to be more proactive as a leader. Take advantage of them. You won’t be disappointed, believe me.

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Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Luis C. Almeida

Department Chair

Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive 3 Ways to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind to Reach Your Goals 6 Strategic Ways to Aim High and Achieve Your Goals What Leaders Can Learn from Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles 6 Distinct Characteristics of an Authentic Leadership

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

4 Signs You Have a Victim Mentality (And How to Break out of It)

4 Signs You Have a Victim Mentality (And How to Break out of It)

Are you someone who has succumbed to the victim mentality trap? Ask yourself, when bad things happen, do you take responsibility for them, or do you blame other people or the world?

If it’s the latter, you likely have a problem with the victim complex. When challenges occur in life, it’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you and assume that the world is out to get you.

It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself occasionally when life gets tough. However, if it gets out of hand, it’s easy to start floundering in victimhood.

It is impossible to be the driver of your life if all you do is play the victim card. In the end, this is the fastest way to lose your power. You have two choices: believe that life is happening for you or to you.

What Is a Victim Mentality?

People who have a victim mentality believe that life happens to them rather than for them. As a result, they are quick to feel victimized when something doesn’t go as planned.

Victim mentality is an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize or consider themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others.

At its core, a victim mentality is a form of avoidance. It’s a way of saying, “I refuse to take any responsibility for myself or my life.”

As a result, you may avoid stepping outside of your comfort zone, making difficult decisions, or doing anything to improve the state of your life. In short, you remain stuck and paralyzed by fear. I think we can all agree that this sounds like a bad place to be.

Steve Maraboli said it best:

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“The victim mentality will have you dancing with the devil, then complaining that you’re in hell.”

Unfortunately, there is a huge payoff to adopting this mindset. You are given the space to have a pity party, to ignore messy emotions, and to get sympathy from others. The fact that there are benefits of being a victim makes it difficult to move away from this habit.

It’s only when you are ready to shift your perspective and see the events of your life as fully in your control that you can step into your power.

How Do I Know If I Have a Victim Mentality?

Let’s look at four signs that you have a victim mentality and find ways how to break free from it.

You Catastrophize All Your Problems

Individuals who catastrophize problems are always thinking the worst. Catastrophizing your problems is when you allow yourself to believe that even the smallest inconveniences are the end of the world and can be a sign of victim syndrome.[1]

If you always assume that the worst will happen, the Universe will listen to you and give you precisely what you’re asking for. The next time you catch yourself thinking about how awful something is, work to put your experience into perspective.

Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” This will help remind you that the outcome may not be as bad as you expect it to be.

You Feel Powerless

One of the hardest things to deal with when you live with a victim mentality is feeling helpless. When bad things happen, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over the situation.

When you find yourself in one of these situations, focus on the things that you can change. Finding something that you can control can help you feel like you have some of your power back, and that’s a big step.

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Another way to break free from feeling powerless is to practice saying no. You don’t have to do everything that is expected of you. It is okay to put your own needs first.

You Engage in Negative Self-Talk

Self-doubt is intimately connected to a victim complex. Once someone falls for the victim mentality, they will subconsciously self-sabotage their best efforts so that they are congruent with their conscious mind.[2]

If you believe that you aren’t worthy, you will always feel as if the world is out to get you. Destructive beliefs will nourish victim behavior to the point where putting yourself down becomes the norm.

You Think That the World Is out to Get You

If you feel like the world is constantly trying to hurt you or make you miserable, you know that you have spiraled into victimhood. Life isn’t out to get you. In fact, it’s always trying to work in your favor if you choose to adopt a growth mindset.

Sometimes things will happen in life that are out of your control. It’s your job to decide how you are going to respond to those events. When you start seeing challenges as opportunities for growth, you start noticing that life is forcing you to level up, which is a blessing in disguise.

How to Stop a Victim Mentality

The first step to breaking out of a victim mentality is understanding and accepting that you have one.

The next step is to shift your thoughts from feeling like a victim to realizing that you are a survivor. It’s incredibly freeing when you realize you are no longer a victim of your life circumstances.

If you want to be a true survivor, you’ve got to focus your attention less on safety and security, and more on developing positive self-beliefs.[3]

Survivors know that they are the CEOs of their lives, meaning that they take full responsibility for everything that happens, both good and bad. Also, instead of seeing the world through a black and white lens, survivors are open to new ways of thinking and behaving if it will support their growth and evolution.

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1. Identify and Challenge Limiting Beliefs

Beliefs are conditioned perceptions that are built upon old memories of pain and pleasure. These memories are based on how we have interpreted and emotionalized our experiences over time.[4]

If these beliefs are disempowering in their nature, they lead to self-sabotage and a feeling of helplessness. If you want to stop being a victim, you first have to identify the critical inner voice that created feelings of victimhood and injustice.

When did feelings of self-pity, low self-efficacy, and false blame first take shape in your life?

A victim mentality can usually be traced back to one’s childhood, as a survival mechanism or as a learned behavior that we observed from our parents.

When you start to understand why you feel the way you do, you take responsibility for thoughts and realize that you have the power to change and shift the narrative from one of a victim to a victor.

For this to really work, you’re going to have to build up the courage to take action. For help with this, check out Lifehack’s Free Guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen.

2. Take Responsibility for Your Life

When you take responsibility for your life, you take ownership of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You design life on your terms because you know that you have the power to create your reality.

The moment that you stop blaming the world is the moment that you shift from victim to victor. All of a sudden, life starts working in your favor because you chose to show up for yourself.

3. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

A victim mentality is grounded in a feeling of lack, as if there is never enough of something. The opposite of lack is abundance, which is where gratitude comes into play.

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The quickest way to stop being a victim is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Make a habit of asking yourself, “What am I grateful for today?”

Gratitude is simply the conscious acknowledgment of what brings you joy in the present moment. When you stop obsessing about your own stuff and look at the bigger picture, you start to realize how lucky you really are.

Take a look at these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

4. Think Positive

A victim complex thrives on negative thoughts. The best way to shift from victim to victor is to change your thinking and take care of your mental health. Instead of looking for the bad in something, find the silver lining amidst every challenge.

Your thoughts create your reality. When you start focusing on the good, you attract more positive things into your life.

That is the moment at which you will open yourself up to live an abundant life of positive growth and change that has the potential to transform your life.[5]

In the words of Martin Seligman,

“Optimism is very valuable for a meaningful life. With a firm belief in a positive future, you can redirect your life towards what’s most important.”

Final Thoughts

If you’re tired of playing the victim, decide that you are ready to become the master of your life and then act on it. You are capable of great things if you believe in yourself and act on your beliefs. Now is the time to take back control of your life and move away from the destructive victim mentality that has been holding you back.

More on Thinking Positive

Featured photo credit: Remy_Loz via unsplash.com

Reference

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