Being Proactive vs. Reactive; which approach is better in the long run

There is a general consensus that human beings, if given a choice, would rather take it easy, relax, and pretty much stay on vacation mode for as long as they could. Of course, the downside to living this way is that you get habituated to that lifestyle, and when the time comes to take initiative and act, it will cause extreme hardship.

We are naturally bound to react to circumstances in our lives. Be it a response to road rage when enjoying a quiet, smooth drive to or from work, or a rude comment that did not sit well with you emotionally. It is always easier to just react to the situation we are in at the moment, and not give it a second thought. When you are reacting to situations around you, you are essentially trying to control an environment that is not in your control. This bothers you, and you react! Yet, we spend about ninety percent of our lives trying to control our external environments, and barely any time controlling our inner well-being or environment we can control, case in point, our emotions, our mental stability, our reactions to things.

So what does it mean to be proactive. Well, it is exactly what was discussed in the last sentence of the last paragraph, controlling our internal environment, and not letting our external environment dictate how we should think, feel, or act. It is the idea of engaging in an environment or situation that is within our control, that is our reaction to the external environment. For example, you are driving on the road to work or any destination, suddenly you notice from your rear view mirror that a car is trying to overtake you, but is having trouble because you are driving at the speed limit, and more importantly, the road only has one lane. So what does the car do, it tailgates you, it tries aggressively to make you go faster so that he can go faster, none of these tactics seem to work. If you were to react to his aggressiveness, you would probably speed up, or slow down, or show him the middle finger, or react verbally, just the way he was, thereby allowing this stranger to get his way, and in turn putting your life in jeopardy, all because you allowed him to, not because you had no choice.

What would you do if you were to take a proactive approach, you would either continue at your pace, take a deep breath so as to not get agitated, as it would be very easy to do so, and possibly try to think in your mind that maybe he needs to rush to the hospital for something, or maybe he is afraid of missing an important meeting at work that could be difference between him being promoted or getting let go, or maybe he is just a prick and is doing this for no other reason but to get a rise out of you. Nonetheless, you don’t  know why he is behaving the way he is, so why would you bother getting agitated. A more proactive approach would be to make a sign with your hand somehow to let him know that he could pass you, and maybe move a bit to the side to give him way. Either way, you have taken control of the situation, and you have decided how you wish to react to this aggressive driver. This is one form of being proactive.

Many of you might be thinking this is a passive approach to the situation, and that you are giving in, because you should get your way as it’s not your fault, and you should put him in his place. Many of you might even think that that a more aggressive, authoritative approach as well, but it really is not, it is you losing control over your mental state, it is you showing how vulnerable you are to unwanted aggressiveness, it is you allowing your EGO to dictate how you should react to this situation. This approach could also cost you your life, it may cause long term problems that you cannot even begin to conceive yet. Last but not least it is a selfish approach, because you are not thinking of the people that may be hurt in the process, if something were to go wrong, for that matter neither is the other driver.

Another way of looking at pro-activity, is acting on things that are an immediate priority. Simply thinking about studying for that exam, and creating a study plan in your head is not enough, you need to act, in fact, it may in some cases be more effective to take action first and fill in the gaps as you go, this resolves the possibility of becoming complacent or being in your head for too long. This form of pro-activity comes in very handy when making career decisions, or studying for exams, or making a good impression on someone. Being proactive is necessary when you want to make your life more meaningful, or when you want to achieve your goals. Simply reacting to situations that are not in your control will not help. Listening to that internal voice and choosing how you react to it is invaluable and will lead to a very successful and fulfilling life.

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