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Business and Leadership

Proactive or Reactive?

Are you Proactive or Reactive? Which one are you? We have many God given facets to our personality. By nature, we are either a “waiting” or a “moving” personality, with a tendency to be either “external” or “internal” processors. And we are, by nature, either proactive or reactive. Regardless of which category we are in, each category has strengths as well as potential limitations.

Have you ever heard someone say: “That’s just the way I am. That’s just the nature God gave me?” Or maybe you’ve heard someone say, “Well, my dad was this way and that’s just the way I am.” People use these excuses for limiting behavior. Those statements are about as wise as saying there is no value in going to school. You don’t need to learn Math, English, History, or any other subject because you are going to live with, “what God gave me”. Life is about growth. Once we have identified our natural inclinations, we can begin to recognize and overcome the limitations within our personalities and grow and develop the inherent strengths. Personal growth, in every area, allows us to live a more fulfilled life of contribution.

Have you ever heard someone say: “That’s just the way I am. That’s just the nature God gave me?” Or maybe you’ve heard someone say, “Well, my dad was this way and that’s just the way I am.” People use these excuses for limiting behavior. Those statements are about as wise as saying there is no value in going to school. You don’t need to learn Math, English, History, or any other subject because you are going to live with, “what God gave me”. Life is about growth. Once we have identified our natural inclinations, we can begin to recognize and overcome the limitations within our personalities and grow and develop the inherent strengths. Personal growth, in every area, allows us to live a more fulfilled life of contribution.

On the other hand, recognizing and preparing for potential obstacles can be a benefit, if done from a solution stand point. Using a proactive approach for the purpose of avoiding negative circumstances can be seen as wisdom. In other words, when a proactive nature perceives a potential obstacle, he should set out to prevent the negative event from occurring, not just sit back and say, “I told you so”. This is the best of both worlds.

If you are by nature a reactive personality, you may be caught off guard by situations you never anticipated. People with this personality can often be heard saying, “Can you believe that happened?” Other favorite expressions of theirs are, “Who would have ever thought it?” or “It never entered my mind that this would happen”. These people only see things as they happen. They rarely ever expect or prepare for a crisis.

Another characteristic of reactive people is passive aggression. This type of behavior can stem from the embarrassment of not preparing for a particular situation. Those that appear passive aggressive are often labeled as “mean spirited” or retaliatory. However, just because someone is reactive by nature, doesn’t mean they have to remain in that mode. They can develop and grow.

I think it is easy recognize that most leaders are proactive by nature. While there may be someone in a leadership role that is reactive, they aren’t doing much leading. They probably spend the majority of their time surprised by events. They usually have an attitude of waiting for things to happen before they are “forced” to deal with them.

Let’s take, for example, the area of health. I started seeing “Wellness Doctors” over 20 years ago. Why? I came to learn that these doctors (who by the way, are often looked upon by MD’s as “quacks”) are focused on helping others maintain good health, rather than waiting until they are in poor health and need to be put under the knife. The Chiropractic profession is an example of doctors focused on preventative treatment. I have gone to a Chiropractor since I was a freshman in college. I had injured my back playing volleyball and saw a sign in a store that something about helping with back pain so I went in. I had no idea what a Chiropractor was, but after just one treatment I was once again able to reach over and tie my shoe. These are proactive physicians, who work at keeping us healthy. Proactive people make it their business to know what lays ahead in every area of their lives….including their health.

True leaders are either proactive by nature or by development and are characterized by vision. They have either the inborn nature or personal growth to anticipate situations and deal with them before they happen. Today, I want to challenge you to first, determine what your nature is. Secondly, don’t just accept that this is the way it has to be. Thirdly, decide that part of the joy in life is learning, growing and developing our talents and natures.

Gary L. Richardson is a noted trial lawyer and author of “Black Robe Fever”, “Fear Is Never Our Friend”, and “Thank God They Ate the Apple”. www.garyrichardsonspeaks.com

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