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Are You Proactive or Reactive?

Are You Proactive or Reactive?

    “If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.

    Stephen Covey

    Proactivity is, according to Stephen Covey, one of the most important characteristics of successful and personally effective people. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey sees proactivity as the foundation of all the other 6 Habits, and therefore has proactivity as Habit #1.

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    Covey regards proactivity as the act of taking charge of your life, being responsible for it, and taking action to master your life. Covey focuses on choice as a principle that underlies proactivity, as we ultimately have the choice on how we respond to what happens to us in our lives and it is our reactions that determine how things affect us. People who lack the proactivity habit tend to be more reactive, seeing themselves as victims of circumstance, unable to change their reactions, thus feeling much less empowered.

    People who play the game of “tit for tat” in an argument are being reactive.  They are reacting to what the other person is saying rather than being grounded and more rational where they take responsibility for their emotional triggers.  The mentality that “he makes me so mad” or “she made me feel bad about myself” are examples of the victim language

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    Underlying the Habit of Proactivity according to Covey are:      

    • The ability to set goals and work towards achieving them.
    • Creating opportunities, not waiting for them to come your way
    • Taking conscious control of your life
    • Understanding the choice you have in engineering your life
    •  Applying your own personal principles and core values in making decision
    •  Having imagination and creativity to explore possible alternatives
    • Realizing you have independent will to choose your own unique response.

    Covey differentiates between the “have’s” and the “be’s.” The latter focuses on your character and how you can take charge of your life. Instead of focusing on the thought “If I had a better job,” a proactive person would focus on thoughts like “I can be more resourceful to find another job or make the best of this one.”

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    Proactive Takeaways

    1.  Remember the importance of being proactive and not reactive!
    2.  If you feel like a rudderless boat which is in chaotic motion without you taking charge at the helm, remind yourself that you can take the helm and can be the captain of your ship.
    3.  Write a specific action plan, whether it be a checklist, schedule, or chart in which you reward yourself for sticking to your goals.
    4.  Replace Covey’s “Have” thoughts with “Be” thoughts – For example: The thought “If I had a better boss” can be changed to “I can “be” a more effective employee.
    5.  Enlist support. Do not hesitate to seek support from others in sticking to your plans. Just because you are the captain of your life does not mean that you need to go it alone. It’s always nice to have crew!
    6.  Plan ways to manage your time and do not spread yourself too thin! Do not let your time divide you – you can divide your time.

    So, if you find yourself having a hard time taking your power back from others, how about spending some quiet time and writing down at least three “have” phrases and transform them into “be” phrases?  As you become stronger about your own sense of empowerment, you will find yourself growing by leaps and bounds.

    (Photo credit: Crossing out reactive and writing proactive via Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

    Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

    Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

    Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

    It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

    • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

    • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

    • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

    In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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    Different Folks, Different Strokes

    Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

    Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

    People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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    Productivity and Trust Killer

    Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

    That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

    Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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    A Flexible Remote Working Policy

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

    There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

    Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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    It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

    What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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