Be Proactive – It’s not proactive, it’s how you react

(Note: This post is needs a lot of pause, heavy digesting, so read when you have time).

“You are not pro-active enough?” Did you say/hear this sentence? Does it help at all?

Recently we attended 7 Habits of effective people training session. Even after the session, many of us were still not clear about the new definition of “Be Proactive”, as we always used dictionary to define the word “Proactive”. Dictionary says, “Proactive is creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after”. So we feel Proactive is about creating something or preparing ourselves in such a way that we can avoid situations which can hurt us. There is nothing wrong with the definition, in fact thats the best definition to Proactiveness but in real life, you need more than perfect definition. I always believed that none of us can be 100% perfect. We can be prepared for most of things but still there are exceptional situtation (every now and then) and how we react to these exceptions help us lead a better life.

Step #1: Understanding what’s a real loss, very inspiring video

(Whats a real loss & Whats a challenge, great video to watch)

Old way we looked at Proactiveness

  1. Be prepared for exams beforehand than worrying about it during the last week – This is proactiveness
  2. Have a spare football for the football match, in case one goes off, you still have another one. This is proactiveness
  3. Having an assistant project manager as backup, so when a project manager is sick, project can run smooth – Best example of proactiveness (the plan B)

I see that the word “be proactive” is being used and abused in the corporate world. Every manager asks their teams to be proactive. When something goes wrong, we keep blaming someone (or ourselves) for not being proactive.

Let’s flush the old idea of Proactive, Please 


  • As the definition is not helping you at all.
  • We all want to prepare for better things but can’t be perfect 100% times. Everyone wants to be proactive but the reality is none of us can be 100% proactive.
  • Also it creates a guilt and hurts your confidence. Also it hurts your team as you start thinking others are not proactive enough.

Bridgestone DM-V2

New way of looking at “be Proactive”

This video will clear a lot of things, here is another video that can help you understand another viewpoint.

The new way of looking at “be proactive” is “Let not your reaction kill you”, here are some of my old posts

  1. (How you are killing yourself while being a victim to your circumstance”
  2. I wrote about 90 10 principle, you can search for it on web. Its about 10% problems you can’t control but rest 90% problems are due to our wrong reactions.

Mindset Change

The most important thing here is to own your circumstance and understand you are here because of choices not because of others. Often we push everything to others.

When I worked at Grmtech, our boss Vikas will always tell me, “Either you can fall victim to your valid circumstances or win over it”, the victim vs victor attitude. This is step #1 to proactiveness.

  • Step #1, it was your choice, you made the choices, you end up here, now how will you react is proactiveness. Will you react looking forward or will you react looking backward? Thats the main difference between reactive reaction or proactive reaction.
  • Step #1.1: Oh, never regret for your choices as that was the best you could do at that time. Regretting and worrying will only change anything. Bible quote (Matt 6:27) “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
  • Step #2: Train yourself to reach pro-actively.
Now what is the principle. That’s an important question. There are 2 ways to above problem:
  • (Best, be prepared) Know that such situation will happen in any business and you can prepare with a process to ensure you react based on the process/principle defined.
  • (Second best, react right when not prepared) When you don’t have above solution ready, how will you react to it. Here are the steps:
    • Take a pause and see why it went wrong.
    • See if there is anyway we can help the client succeed.
    • If there is no way to save the project, how to make a graceful exit.
    • There are underlying principles that will help you react better like “Client’s business is more important than your account. See if it is hurting in anyway?”, “No disrespect for anyone”, “Relationship is more important than an account or money”, “Accept fault when it happens” etc. Now these principles needs to be written everyday and your brains should be trained for it. Having these principles ingrained in each one of your team member will help in reacting better, reacting pro-actively.
    • Also watch for language, don’t say, “You never co-operated with us, we asked you to do this, do that”, say “There were issues which together we could not fix on time. We own the problem, wish we could do better, still there are 10 to 15 things left to be implemented. Can you please get it implemented, we will help you get it implemented and then we will support you for next 3 months for free with reports and things undone.

Is it that easy?

No not all, thats why great companies are rare to find, they train their teams, themselves, the whole organization again and again to win over these difficult challenges. I was listening to Rata Tata Sir, when asked about values for an organization and how to enforce it at all levels, he said (in my own words and understanding) “You can’t take responsibility for behaviour of 400,000 employees but when someone does wrong/right, how you react to it will define your value”. WOW! it was a great learning.

What’s your definition to “being proactive” and what’s your take from this post