A Coaching Power Tool created by Lianne Steeghs
(Financial Services Coach, NETHERLANDS)
There was once a grasshopper who loved life. He spent his time lazing in the sun, eating when he wanted to, sleeping when he wanted to, generally enjoying himself all the time. He lived like he did not have a care in the world.
One day as he was sun-bathing, he saw an ant pushing a bread crumb across the ground. The grasshopper asked, “Hey brother! What are you doing?” The ant replied, “I am gathering food for the winter while the weather is still warm. Once winter sets in, I am going to stay home and just eat from my stock of food.”
The grasshopper made fun of the ant’s dull life and went on sun bathing saying,
There’s enough time for such boring work. You should take time to have fun like me.
Soon the summer passed and the winter started to set in.
As the weather became colder, it became harder for the grasshopper to get out. However, he soon started to feel hungry. He decided to brave the weather and find himself some food.
When he stepped out, everything was covered with snow and he could not find anything to eat. He continued to search for food every day. He did not find anything. Finally, he grew weak and died of hunger.
Reactivity comes easier to us than proactivity. To be proactive we need to work at it. Reactivity just happens; it happens when we surrender ourselves to our habitual patterns. The more proactive we aim to become, the more we will come up against the reactivity in us. This is essential since we can’t work with something that we can’t firs ‘see’.
Wikipedia provides the following definition for reactivity:
Generally, capable of having a reaction.
When researching several resources to relate this to the behavioral aspect of people the following definition could be composed: ‘Reactive is reacting to circumstances and tasks that are usually not results of planning, but more likely to appear in the heat of the moment’.
The grasshopper in the story above did not anticipate on his need for food in the winter time and was forced by hunger to do so when winter was there. The reason for this reactive behavior is not provided by the story, but it could be that he just wanted to enjoy his time-off, or that he was not aware of the fact that food might be not available during the winter time, he might not have known how to store food, etc.
Now, let’s see how we can relate this to reactive behavior of human beings, which happens when:
- we surrender ourselves to our habitual patterns
- we are not aware
- we have feelings of fear
- we don’t know how to do things more effectively or how to anticipate on what (may) come(s)
- we just miss the energy
When we are being reactive we might use expressions as:
I can’t do anything about it, ‘this is just who I am, If I only could…, If….And sometimes even feelings of being a victim exist, blaming others for our situation.
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
Wikipedia provides the following definition of proactivity: ‘Refer to anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behavior. Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen, rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen.
The ant in the story anticipated on the harsh winter time, knowing that food would be scarce and he decided to already start collecting food in the summertime when plenty was available.
When trying to relate this to our behavior, we can say that proactivity is supported by:
- self-awareness (I want to do this differently)
- ability to anticipate (what challenge do I foresee and what can I do to overcome this for now and later)
- overcoming feelings of fear
- certain level of energy
Proactive people might use expressions as ‘What alternatives do I have?’, ‘I can choose to..’, ‘Let me try to do this differently’,
What you are is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now. Buddha
Shifting from reactive to proactive
So, does that mean that Proactive is good and Reactive is bad? That we always should be proactive and never reactive? No, I don’t think so, as long as you have a choice and are aware of the (consequences) of the choices you make.
Proactivity means choice, the more proactive we become the more choice we experience in our lives. This freedom brings us a host of positive benefits including more joy and satisfaction from life. It also empowers us to live as we intend instead of having to pretend.
We can’t control everything in our lives nor should we wish to. Yet, the choice of how we want to relate to life is always ours to make. It is a responsibility that can’t be taken lightly by those of us serious about personal growth, self-improvement and motivation.
There is really no such thing as a proactive vs. reactive person. We are proactive and reactive beings – the potential for both is inside us. Some of us can be powerfully proactive under certain circumstances, yet hopelessly reactive in others. For maximum personal growth we would do well to work on developing more proactivity precisely in those areas where it doesn’t come naturally to us. This gives us the biggest return on our investment in ourselves.