I’m guessing you’ve probably been told bya supervisor to be more proactive, or you’ve heard about ‘proactive policing’ which technically isn’t proactive because it’s almost always a response to a problem and is therefore, by definition, reactive. But I am being a little bit semantic.
In a nutshell, proactivity is the opposite of reactivity in the sense that as humans and as professionals we have a tendency to get caught up in routines. Something happens and we deal with it the way we always have. In particular, with the same emotional response. Something that made us angry yesterday will make us angry today. Or, because we are in a poor emotional or mental stae, we auto-respond to an event with a resigned ‘here we go again’ and wonder WHY that same thing keeps happening – or why our response doesn’t seem to work the second time.
In his great books, author Stephen Covey described proactivity as the use of the gap between stimulus (an event) and response, and using our self-awareness, creative imagination, independent will and conscience to choose a better response, and not just react to that stimulus.
In illustrating the concept, Civey used examples which one might construe as being at the extremes, e.g. arguments, calamities, disasters, challenges, etc. There is nothing wrong with that – it is at times like that that we see more clearly how using the gap well may result in our successfully negotiating the challenge. And I’m sure we can all recall those occasions when we failed to use that gap and just lost control of an event – or ourselves.
But the idea of being proactive extends well beyond, or can be used successfully well this side of calamity. It can and should be used all the time.
It isn’t a calamity or disaster to pop into the fridge for a biscuit. But not taking in a biscuit is a better use of the gap between peckish and yum yum if you are trying to lose weight (or just don’t wish to gain any). Deciding to go for a run is a better use of the gap between ‘I really don’t want to’ and getting fit.
Deciding to do some computer work is a good example of being proactive when you aren’t in the mood. Not watching another YouTube dashcam video is a good use of your proactivity when ‘the TV is on anyway, so why not?’ Planning your day in advance is a supreme example of being proactive, as opposed to having another five minutes in bed. Deciding to get that MG file done today instead of putting it off again is another example.
Deciding not to lamp someone over the noggin with your ASP baton because he called you a Pig is also a proactive use of the Gap.
I suggest that ‘Be Proactive’ is not a motto or tenet or context to be applied only in times of extreme stress. It is an excellent way of responding at such times, of course – but the more frequently you apply proactivity in the most routine of contexts, the more likely it will be that you get what you want, spend less time feeling miserable, produce better work (even a tidy kitchen), have fewer arguments with loved ones, get slim, achieve the fitness levels you want, and create positive results in EVERYTHING.
Try Permanent Proactivity. Let me know how it works for you.