Are you proactive or reactive?

Stephen Covey’s book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has been on my shelf for the past 6 months. Though I’ve started reading a few pages, still I couldn’t get myself to finish it. Just this morning, I was thinking of what worthwhile thing to do without getting off from bed and spotted his book lying on the shelf beside me. So, I pick it up and started reading from the last page I’ve read.

The page title says “Proactivity” Defined. I was reminded of what my officemate told me few days ago; our boss commented that he is not proactive. But what does ‘proactive’ means anyway? And what do we call a person who is not proactive?

As I read through, I got to figure out the best word to define how I have been behaving for more than a year now and the very reason why I couldn’t finish reading this book and all the other books in my shelf, “reactive”.

Below is an excerpt of the book to give you a glimpse of how Covey differentiates a proactive and reactive person.

Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.

Reactive people are affected by their social environment, by the “social weather”. When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t they become defensive and protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behaviour of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.

Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.

Reactive Language Proactive Language
There’s nothing I can do Let’s look at our alternatives
That’s just the way I am I can choose a different approach
He makes me so sad I control my own feelings
They won’t allow that I can create an effective presentation
I have to do that I will choose an appropriate response
I can’t I choose
I must I prefer
If only I will

There you have it! So what do you choose to act now, be proactive or reactive?

Source: Covey, S.R. The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People. 1989. Simon & Schuster, New York.

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