Proactive means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen. We are by nature proactive. If our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have, consciously or unknowingly allowed these things to control us. Proactive people focus their efforts on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their circle of Influence to increase. Reactive people on the other hand, focus their efforts on the circle of concern. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and self-pity.

At the very heart of our circle of influence is our ability to make and keep commitments and promises. The commitments we make to ourselves and to others and our integrity to those commitments is the essence and clearest manifestation of our proactivity.

Real growth occurs, for us individually and in our relationships, when we see the opportunity and avoid preparing our attack and defense. This is the difference between being proactive versus reactive. To be proactive means adopting a longer-term, visionary approach to the possibilities in any given situation. It means honoring yourself and the other person, as well as the relationship between you, rather than getting caught up in being right. The moment we indulge in an adversarial attitude, the lesson becomes a painful one.

Often we get frustrated, angry and upset and are unsure exactly why. Usually there is an underlying fear in existence. Rather than get in touch with what that might be, it is easier to blame another for making us feel a certain way. However, being proactive also means acknowledging that nobody makes you feel anything. If you are having a reaction to a situation, avoid pointing fingers and making accusations. Being empowered means recognizing that you are responsible for your own experience. Learn to own your “stuff”.

If possible, request a meeting after you have had time to reflect on what exactly are your needs. Ask yourself if you are coming from ego and just wanting to be right, or are you speaking your truth. Take time to find your truth. Utilize a journal, sit in silence or meditate. Then come from that place of truth.

Be willing to listen with an open mind. Is there an area where you can stretch? Agree to discuss the issue until you reach a solution that satisfies the needs of both parties. If you start making the other person wrong in your mind, you run the risk of slipping into an adversarial stance. Stretch your previous limitations. Find new ways to flex. Communicate clearly and respectfully.

Applying this approach to your personal relationships, realize that just as it may take you some time to gain clarity on exactly what need you have that is going unmet, so, too, does your partner. You can lovingly hold the space for him or her by practicing patience, tolerance and listening without judgment. Give your partner the opportunity to get to their own truth without feeling interrogated, attacked or shot down along the way.

Proactive people make choices based on values. Reactive people make choices based on impulse. Proactive or Reactive……. The Choice is yours.

Example: You overhear your best friend bad-mouthing you in front of a group. She doesn’t know you heard her. Just five minutes ago, she was sweet-talking you to your face. You feel hurt and betrayed.

Reactive Response

  • Tell her off, then hit her.
  • Go into a deep depression
  • Decide she is a two-faced liar and give her the silent treatment
  • Spread vicious rumor about her. After all, she did it to you.

    Proactive Response

  • Forgive her.
  • Confront her and calmly share how you feel.
  • Ignore it and give her a second chance. Realize that she has weaknesses just like you and that occasionally you talk behind her back without really meaning harm.
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