Reactive people may be very busy people. They are usually the ones who appear to be overworked and operating in a whirlwind. But activity, even the most frenetic kind, does not necessarily produce results. Reactive people can be efficient but still not be effective. Why? Because they avoid introspection and value - clarification. They have no idea what makes them tick. Because they never establish goals, they tend to float through life rather than focus on what they want from it. They jump from one interest and project to another. Things may happen to them, but they rarely make things happen.
As a result, reactive people spend the bulk of their time reacting to their environment, puppets of life's circumstances.
They have no creed, no mission, no plan; on occasion they may adapt to what comes their way, and on very rare occasions they may plan-perhaps for a single event. But they have no master plan.
Unfortunately, many of you have probably been "managed" at one time or another by someone like this, a person whose style would best be characterized as Management by Crisis. At the end of the day this person will have accumulated a big bucket of sweat. When his boss asks what he accomplished that day, he points proudly to his bucket. But buckets of sweat are no indication that goals have been realized. Our manager is so hell-bent on cracking the whip to produce sweat it never occurs to him that sweat, in and of itself, is not an accomplishment.
The same thing applies to job-seekers. Instead of first asking, "Who am I and what career makes sense for me?" the reactive job-seeker reads the Sunday want-ads - allowing his or her career to be determined by what's in that week's offerings. He or she is totally oblivious to the statistics that show only 21 to 25 percent of all jobs are filled through newspaper classified advertising.
Proactive people, on the other hand, are goal-oriented. The number one characteristic of Peak Performers is foresight. Because they want and need to grow, they pursue introspection. They are comfortable with who they are because they know who they are. While reactive people live the same day a million times, proactive people view each day as a stepping stone to something greater.
Proactive individuals plan a lot, too. They identify what they want to happen in each life dimension, and they do what's required to make it happen. They spend their time and energy doing what counts-whatever gets them closer to their goals.
Do things always go as planned for proactive people? Of course not. But when setbacks occur, they adapt (and perhaps even react) to the new conditions while never losing sight of what they value and what is important. Is it hard work? Only at first. Actually, it's quite exhilarating to realize you're in charge of your own life, that you're not the victim of life's experiences, that you can create your own reality.
Reflect upon two situations: one in which you were reactive and one in which you were proactive. How did each work out for you? Write your responses in the spaces below.
It has been my experience that setting goals makes many people downright uncomfortable. In my job-search workshops I always ask participants to spend some time focusing on their goals. After a minute or two some people become so uneasy they actually leave the room! For the uninitiated, goal-setting is not unlike going to the dentist: It's definitely the prudent thing to do, but it's not a lot of fun. And that's why most people don't set goals. It requires soul-searching and possibly some discomfort. But will it pay off? A hundredfold.
Americans have a penchant for quick fixes-from Alka-Seltzer to diet pills to tanning booths to facelifts. But after the initial fizzle the ulcer remains, the pounds return, the tan fades, the face sags. Quick fixes only work in the movies. There are no over-the-counter pills for self-enlightenment.
If you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the job-seekers and want to live your life to the fullest, pursue self knowledge as if your new career depended on it. In fact, it does.