It’s Your Life: Are You A Reactionist or A Proactivist?

job-frustrationIn the course of my week, I speak with many individual, most of whom are struggling with some aspect of their career.  The project at work is stalling.  Their company has cut development dollars and opportunities.  They feel dead-ended in their current role.  Chances for promotions are dwindling.  The economy sucks.  Their boss is inept…..

The list could go on and on, and we’ve all both heard similar refrains or made them ourselves.  And guess what, most (if not all) of them are likely true.  The times are tight.  The economy, while on the rebound, does still suck.  Bad bosses do exist.  And many people do feel rutted in roles that are unrewarding, unfulfilling, or just plain below the level at which they individually feel they want to be or should be.  It’s all true!!!

So, I tend to agree with them when they say all these things.

“Yep,” I say with a shrug. “Things really suck.”

Then I pause….for as long as it takes to get them to say the next word. (Sometimes it’s a pretty long wait!)

What types of responses do you think I get?  Eventually, almost everyone will respond in some way.  After all, it gets uncomfortable for most to simply wallow in silence.  Well, I tend to get one of two types of responses…..

  1.  Reactionist (I prefer this to the term “reactionary”) – “It’s just so frustrating” or “I’m stuck” or “I can’t wait for….(fill in the blank)”.
  2. Proactivist – “You know what I should do?” or “I’m going to….(fill in the blank)”.

    Which one are you?
    Which one are you?

Which of these types of response are better?  Go on, you can answer that without much difficulty.  Of course, it’s better to be the “proactivist.”  But why is that?  Very simply, it’s because when someone takes a proactive perspective toward a challenge or problem, they are looking inward both at what their role in the situation is (what their contribution to it has been) and to their own ability to take charge and move forward with a solution.

Conversely, when one takes a “reactionist” viewpoint, one sinks into a world of victimization and blame casting.  Even IF external forces are “to blame” for one’s impending or immediate difficulties, a victim mentality allows for little movement forward UNLESS the external contributors change.  In other words, if you view yourself as the victim or as powerless, then you are.  You will continue to sail subject to the prevailing winds.  And any sailor knows that’s a perilous position in which to find oneself.

So, how do we move ourselves (or others) from a “reationist” to a “proactivist” stance?  It’s very simple.  We simply ask ourselves (or others who many be stuck in that victim role) the very questions we would hear if they were already “proactive.”  That very easy step often is enough to break free from the mental “victim” rut and into a mentality from which action planning can take place.

proactive-not-reactiveThe next time you find yourself struggling (at work, at school, or in any aspect of your life), pause for a moment and ask yourself, “So, what am I going to do about it?”

It can make all the difference in the world!

*And, yes, I do know that “reactionist” and “proactivist” are made-up words! 🙂

6 thoughts on “It’s Your Life: Are You A Reactionist or A Proactivist?

    1. While I agree, Jim, many times people simply don’t act or don’t recognize a developing issue. In an ideal world in which all actors operated rationally and predictably, one could always stay in front of situations. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned or anticipated.

      1. Very true! I found this post very interesting. I think I can be both at times, but I always seem to come out on the proactivist side of things in the end. I found this post yesterday about how to get unstuck and it got me thinking. It can help proactivists and reactionists alike

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