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Proactive VS Reactive: Tips For A Proactive Attitude [Examples]

Proactive VS Reactive: Tips For A Proactive Attitude [Examples]

Proactive behavior, what does that actually mean? How can you act proactively? In this article you will find tips and examples of a proactive attitude, as well as properties of reactive people. Read on to learn all the traits of proactive people …

Characteristics of proactive people

The lessons on proactivity are perhaps the most important lessons from the famous book The Seven Habits of Effective Leadership (Covey) . People with a proactive attitude …

  • Are responsible for their actions, not dependent on their environment. They do everything on their own and are not upset by bad influences or bad results from the past. Choices bring success, not circumstances. Proactive people make statements that start with “I do… I want…” . They are just happy and they can have a genuine smile on their face despite the weather.
  • They don‘t say, “I should …”, but they say , “I want …”. Proactive people focus on the circle of influence instead of the circle of worry. Both can grow at the expense of the other. It just depends on what you focus on. Focusing on the circle of influence can also mean that you sometimes have to accept things that cannot be done about.
  • Not: I want to be the best. But: I want to use my potential. If proactive people got back to a similar situation after making a mistake, they would do it differently. We call this making mistakes and learning from them . Errors are in the circle of concern. Learning from those mistakes lies in the circle of influence. The solution is: recognize the mistake, correct it and learn from it. That leads to success! If you are reactive and therefore not, it remains a huge mistake that you cannot do anything about.
  • Proactive people know: if I have no influence on it, I will not spend time on it.
  • Proactive people know this: feelings are not in others / the environment but in you. You are the source of all your emotions. You are the one who creates them. You are responsible for it. You don’t have to wait for anything or anyone. Are there any obstacles, such as a train rushing past the classroom? Make it a party! “Every time we hear that train thundering by from now on, we’re going to celebrate and I wonder how good we can feel then.” Are they still negative feelings? You dissociate from it. I am not {eg annoyed}. It is there and I accept it.
  • Like unfamiliar situations and like to take risks .
  • If something doesn’t work, they test something else and change what they do . This is the TOTE principle.
  • Proactive people know that they are best off if they quickly reach for solutions when there is a disability. They teach this fantastic proactive trait in every ‘professional development’ lesson to students preparing for their professional career: always immediately mention options to solve a limitation, setback, weakness or error. And when you recognize that you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  • Proactive behavior also means that you are flexible and that you can deal with a ‘no’. You are then willing to look for another solution that you have not done before. You are willing to let go of your first plan. That way, this ‘no’ can open up a surprising new world for you, provided you naturally use flexibility. If you start pushing against an unexpected, and in any case unchanging no, you will suffer and miss out on other opportunities.
  • If someone is scolding a proactive person, the proactive person remains unaffected and silent. He holds for 30 seconds and does not respond . Then it is over immediately, because if he had fought back and asked, “What is it bothering you?” Then you should have spent more time with that unfortunate person.
  • Do not let themselves be guided by fast, reactive impulses. So they are mindful . Take a breath, take a step back, think … and only then come up with a response.
  • Knowing that they influence how they interpret a situation . You cannot control how others behave, but you can control how you deal with it.
  • Are on the cause side. We will discuss this in more detail in one of the following sections.

It is wiser to light a candle than to complain about the darkness.
– Lao

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it.
– John Maxwell

Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.
– Jean-Paul Sartre

In Stephen Covey’s books you will find more characteristics of proactive people.

Nothing in this life is worth worrying. You cannot change the past. Do you investigate what you are doing wrong to learn from it or do you not call it your responsibility?

Characteristics of reactive people

reactive people

People with a reactive attitude …

  • Make statements like, He makes me so angry. I don’t have enough time. I can not do it. If only my wife was a little more patient …
  • Speaking of must , “I must …”
  • Stand on the consequence side.

A person can only take your self-esteem if you give it to him.
Mahatma Gandhi

It’s not your job to love me. That is my job.
– Byron Katie

  • For example, a reactive statement is: “I am nog allowed to come. My mother doesn’t let me.”
  • A proactive statement is: “I chose my mother of my own accord – to live with her. And I take responsibility for the obstacles that come with it every day. All of my own accord. That means for everyone with whom I meet: the will always be subject to change and not with 100% spontaneity. I choose to carry that with me. I stand for it. Those circumstances are there – I sometimes have a hard time with that. And that’s what I chose.

Why did he insult you? Because you let him insult you.

You can tell from someone’s language how proactive that person is

You just have to turn on the TV after sports matches and you will immediately hear in the interviews who is proactive and who is reactive. Put a successful football coach, such as Louis van Gaal, and an unsuccessful football coach, such as Frank de Boer, next to each other. If you listen to the statements of these trainers, you will hear who is proactive and who is reactive.

Football coach Louis van Gaal managed to finish 3rd at the 2014 World Cup from a team full of youngsters with no international experience. The following statements of Louis van Gaal make it clear why:

“Quality is the exclusion of coincidence.”

“We have top players and – sorry for being arrogant – a top coach.”

“You have to teach your people to look the way you want them to look.”

“I’m not going to change my personality just because others want to”

“I always try to get a finger on everything, but sometimes that doesn’t work.”

“I choose democratic leadership, but in the end I decide.”

And then read Frank de Boer’s statements. He is a reactive and unsuccesful person:

“I had a mediocre group of players at Inter Milan.”

“With a little more time, things would certainly have turned out well at Crystal Palace.”

“We lost because of the bad field.”

“Ajax fans have become spoiled.”

A proactive person is on the cause side – Are you on the cause side (proactive) or the effect side (reactive)?

proactive behavior

You can also see proactively as the cause side and reactive as the effect side. How are you on the cause side? Here are some tips:

  • You can be proactive by not responding! The person who responds the least is the winning person. Another person has control over what you feel, the other has control over whether you are happy or angry.
  • Another way to be on the cause side is to be indifferent to how the other person reacts.
  • The internal is stronger than the external. Remember that your perception is stronger than your circumstances. How you respond to your circumstances is more important than the circumstances themselves. Every obstacle turns into an opportunity for growth if I change my perspective.
  • Develop your flexibility to keep creating new options or by knowing that you always have those options.

Bad weather does not exist. Only the wrong clothes exist.
– Scandinavian saying

  • Don’t worry about a problem: fix it.
  • If what you’re doing doesn’t work, try something else.
  • Take responsibility for your life. Get out of the victim role. Stop expecting things from the world, complaining, and blaming others. You get results.
  • Stop complaining if you have clearly chosen to pursue a certain goal.

You can’t control what’s happening, but you can absolutely control how you react.

  • Be responsive! Reactive is not the same as responsive. Being responsive is good. Not being reactive. For example, act and respond positively to positive things (for example, when a woman shows that she likes you), but not reactively / dependent, nor react reactively to negative things. Do answer, but do not respond.
  • So instead of responding, what do you do? Have a strong intention: be on the cause side! Show this in everything you do, even through your tonality. Suppose you say “Hey!” says. Don’t say it reactively (shaky, soft and trembling), but sure! That doesn’t always mean saying it in a loud voice. It can also be done with a soft voice, but with the same power of a person who is on the cause side.

Take responsibility and be on the cause side. No excuses. Don’t use the word ‘if’ gratefully.

‘If there wasn’t a crisis. If I had more time. If I had more help. If I didn’t have to work so hard for it. If I wasn’t a foreigner. If I didn’t have a family. If I had money. If I had a good education. If I were healthy. If times were more favorable. If I would have had a chance. When I was younger. If I was born rich. If I had the talent of others … ‘

  • You are also on the cause side by making the most of it. Stuck on the highway for eight hours by a truck blockade? Then have a picnic on the highway. Who can say that! Thinking skills also come in handy here.
  • Lateral chunking is also a way of proactively finding a solution.
  • Someone on the entourage side would say, “They’re not going to do this to me again.” Someone on the cause side would say, “I’m not going to let this happen to me again.”

Nobody comes to make your life better. It is your life and your body.

  • You always have control over how you deal with a situation. Car broken? Nice walk! File and all strips closed? Have a nice picnic along the highway! There is always something you can do. What small step can I take now to make the situation a little better?
  • A proactive person would simply communicate with people to get more information or to turn a situation into his / her advantage. For example, if you are in a restaurant but you have an appointment fairly soon afterwards, feel free to ask the waiter for priority! ‘Could it come faster or with priority? Because we have to leave earlier. ‘

Unfortunately, we can’t change other people (I tried …) but we can change our own moods.

A proactive person has a lot of flexibility

Flexibility is one of the qualities that most contribute to the effectiveness of a coach, leader or other person who wants to get something done with people. What makes this an indispensable quality to have?

The supple ferns survive the wind storm, while the mighty oak tree breaks.

It cant hurt you if you accept it. For example, accept a cold shower or anger.

The world won’t break you. You break yourself with your unwillingness to learn and adapt.

Did you have a shitty day? Maybe the day had a fucking you.

Flexibility-type 1: towards the status quo

In NLP, flexibility is mainly seen as temporarily letting go of your own ideas and plans completely so that you can step into the perception of other people. This shows commitment and respect, which will be rewarded. Often times you indeed have to let go of your ego and adapt yourself to the system in order to get people with you or not to cause problems for yourself. Moreover, it is also an easy way to achieve things as it is easier to adapt yourself than it is to adapt other people.

Control <Choice

Let’s take a student in the school system as an example: it is important to do exactly what is asked, otherwise he will run the risk of not obtaining a diploma, no matter how good he thinks his own ideas and alternatives. In that case you are flexible to achieve your result, obtaining a diploma.

Also within the ‘cultural system’ it is good to adhere to the etiquette and customs of the system. With that you adapt yourself so that you prevent problems and can communicate better with people without other people thinking weird about you.

It is not the strongest that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one that responds best to change.
– Charles Darwin

Flexibility-type 2: towards solutions

In other cases, it actually demonstrates positive flexibility to go against the system. Out of the Box solutions can then be created. For example, you can break through patterns to solve psychological and practical problems.

  • Example: A group of 80 people wants to go from Eindhoven to Cologne. You can go by car, but a bus is also arranged for the whole group. If you think out of the box in this case, you can look beyond the two options given and you may choose to travel from Eindhoven Airport to Frankfurt by plane. Then you are also there faster.
  • Perhaps this analogy works to remind us of flexibility more often: “Is the glass half empty or half full?” “Where’s the tap?”

There is always something you can do.

Sometimes a system can arise simply because everyone does the same. In social conditioning, an entire country displays a certain behavior. In some cases you should not do what is expected of you, but instead do your extra best or break the pattern and choose a different route.

  • Example: it is normal in the Netherlands for an 18-year-old to choose one study, take a side job and spend the rest of the time on the terrace doing nothing and checking every now and then.
    In this case, it can be very resourceful to be steadfast in your own course, and therefore not to go along with what is ‘normal’. Maybe you want to do two studies at the same time, do something with spirituality outside of the superficial life, learn to play the piano or do business.

You are the only one who creates your reality.

Both forms of flexibility are important for a proactive person

A proactive person makes thorough use of both types of flexibility. The first form always goes first, so that you create support and momentum. Then you can be flexible in finding new unknown solutions, without resistance! You can easily start following by, for example, mirroring physically and vocally, but after that you absolutely have to lead!

Do it by the book, but be the author of the book!

This was the article on Developing a Proactive Attitude, which is one of the meta programs .

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!

1 Comment

  1. Eleni Nikolakakou

    Rubin your articles are superb!!!
    By the way, I didn’t realize you are not a native English speaker.
    Only when you said.
    All the best!!!



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