Be Proactive, Not Just Reactive!

We often tend to be reactive rather than proactive when dealing with problems and situations. While it’s impossible and highly impracticable to anticipate every potential situation or scenario that can arise or plan for every contingency (and even with the best laid plans, there’s always an Achilles’ heel), we can and should certainly work towards being more proactive (whenever possible) when dealing with problems and situations. Quite often, we can nip that problem or situation in the bud before it happens and/or take proactive steps to mitigate the impact of a problem or situation and prevent it from escalating and getting out of hand.

When we are reactive to a problem or situation, we tend to “shoot from the hip”. We try to combat the problem or situation head on without the proper information, knowledge and understanding of the scope and depth of the situation. We may speak and act without thinking. We don’t take the time to analyze the situation in a calm and rational manner to determine the proper course of action, impacts and alternatives. We also tend to become defensive and aggressive in our handling of the problem or situation. Our demeanor and attitude change. We can become easily frustrated and annoyed. We react and overreact which brings additional negative elements into the situation (pouring fuel on the fire). In addition, those around us can be negatively impacted by our behavior.

In contrast, when we are proactive, we don’t simply react to a problem or situation . . . we plan for it. We take the time to analyze the possible scenarios, potential solutions, options and alternatives. Being proactive, we work on our schedule and our terms. We have better control over the situation and can plan in an orderly, controlled fashion and environment. We don’t need to be aggressive and defensive. Since we are able to deal with situations in a more orderly fashion, we minimize our stress levels and frustration and foster a more cooperative and collaborative environment when working with others to develop a plan and strategy for dealing with problems and situations. Those around us will be more willing to help us rather than fear and want nothing to do with us.

So the bottom line is be proactive whenever you can. Plan ahead and try to anticipate situations. However, keep in mind that there will be times where you will need to react and be reactive. There’s always going to be some situation which you don’t have control over or that you just don’t know about (one of life’s surprises) and in those cases, you won’t be able to be proactive but the key is to stay calm, be patient, keep a clear head and focus on the situation at hand. It is also important that you don’t simply react and be reactive to the situation, but rather respond to the situation. Work cooperatively and collaboratively with those around you. While you will have to be quick and think on your feet, do so in a responsible, collected manner. Place the focus on quality and results rather than simply expediency. Don’t just jump in head first. Think before you do! Reacting to a problem or situation should not add fuel to the fire but should aim to put out that fire and prevent it from spreading.

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