Proactive versus Reactive

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Last week, I was listening to the Tim Ferris podcast. He was interviewing Kyle Maynard. I had never heard of Kyle Maynard before this podcast. I don't know how I had never heard of Kyle before last week, but he has an amazing story (please tell me if you had heard about him before this article - maybe I live under a rock or something). 

Kyle is a quadruple amputee, who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, won awards in mixed martial arts, wrote a book, and travels around the world inspiring people. He never shied away from anything and sought out wrestling in high school and mixed martial arts as an adult. He was successful in both endeavors. 

Before listening to this podcast, I completed my daily ritual of reading. I am currently reading, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey. As I listened to the podcast, I couldn't help but notice the connection between Kyle's success and the first habit of being proactive that Stephen R. Covey detailed.

Just think about it, Kyle was dealt a pretty tough life as a quadruple amputee, and he could have just let life happen to him, but instead he took the initiative and made life happen. He pushed the limits and has become a highly effective person.

Not all of us have the same challenges as Kyle, but that doesn't mean that we should just let life happen to us. We need to take the bull by the horns and take risks. We need to start living a proactive lifestyle instead of a reactive lifestyle.

The Reactive Habit

I feel like I have wrote multiple times about this type of person who waits on something amazing to happen to them. A reactive person blames other people for their misfortunes. They don't take responsibility for their errors or their circumstances. A reactive person is affected by their social environment.

Examples of a Reactive Person - pulled directly from 7 Habits - (My commentary in italics):

  • It's my genetics. All of my family members had a temper, therefore there's nothing I can do about my temper. (Oddly enough, lot's of members of my family have temper problems and I have overcome my anger problems...even though it was my genetic disposition to have anger problems).
  • It's was my dysfunctional family that has caused me so much grief, I just can't recover. (Seriously, you parents damaged you so much that you can't recover and make something of yourself?)
  • It was my environment that caused my problems. This could include a boss, spouse, children, political policies or economic problems. (Just read my article: Should the Political Party in Power Effect our Savings?)

Language of a Reactive Person - pulled directly from 7 Habits - (I added a few in italics)

  • There's nothing I can do.
  • That's just the way I am.
  • He makes me so mad.
  • They won't allow that.
  • I have to do that.
  • I can't.
  • I must.
  • If only.
  • They made me do it.
  • I just can't control myself.
  • I couldn't possibly do that.

A reactive person has excuses for why their life, career, and relationships never turned out the way they wanted. They never look back at themselves. They never take responsibility for their life circumstances.

The Proactive Habit

In his book, Stephen Covey details a story about a man named Frankl, who was a prisoner in a Nazi internment camp. During his time in the death camp, Frankl came to the following realization, "Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose."

The stimulus is the event that happens to you (internment camp/quadruple amputee) and the response is your reaction to these events. A proactive person understands that they have the option to choose their response to each situation. Or as Stephen stated in his book, "It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives."

Language of the Proactive Person - pulled directly from 7 Habits 

  • Let's look at our alternatives.
  • I can choose a different approach.
  • I control my own feelings.
  • I can create an effective presentation.
  • I will choose an appropriate response.
  • I choose.
  • I prefer.
  • I will.

To be proactive, you must take initiative or take the responsibility to make things happen. A proactive person does not let circumstances get them down. Instead, they take those circumstances and turn them into great successes. 

Be Proactive

There are lots of ways in our lives that we can be proactive. We can find ways in our busy schedules to find time to workout, spend time with our kids and still fit in a date night. Otherwise we could just complain about the fact that there is no time and we are just too tired for the important things in life. Personally, I want to be the type of husband and father that takes the time and energy to be present in my families life.

Since I am a personal finance writer, I should shift my focus towards how this applies to money. It's pretty simple. I have written this statement many times, but here it goes one more time:

YOU choose how to spend your money! You choose how much money you save! Your choices will lead you to financial stability or financial turmoil. Which one do you want?

Let's look at all the excuses that keep us from succeeding. (Each statement begins with, "I can't save any money, because...)

  • "...I need that new car/sofa/recliner/jeans/etc."
  • "...I can't live without TV."
  • "...I have to use a student loan to go to college."
  • "...I can't live without my season tickets."
  • "...I just have to see that concert."
  • "...I can't miss the happy hours with my co-workers."
  • "...I need that new dress and $600 shoes."
  • "...I need my $4 Starbucks everyday."
  • "...I just spend wherever and whenever I want."

Instead, we could be proactive and live for the future. Look at the statements of a person taking the initiative to live for their future:

  • "I will buy a used car, because it is a better deal than a new car."
  • "I will give up my TV for one year, to get myself out of debt."
  • "I will work two part-time jobs and apply for lots of scholarships to avoid student loans."
  • "I will give up my season tickets for 5 years and use that money to reach financial stability."
  • "I can see that concert when I am out of debt."
  • "I will go to happy hour with my co-workers, but I will only drink water."
  • "I have enough clothes in my closet, a new dress can wait."
  • "I will make my own coffee every morning and save $3.50 a day."
  • "I will make a budget and take control of my spending."

These are just a few examples of taking the initiative to reaching financial independence. A highly successful person makes this shift in their mindset. They stop thinking about what 'can't' happen and start doing things. They start making things happen and all of the sudden they are on the path to financial success. 

What are some ways that you have become more proactive in your finances and even life? Have you made the mindset shift away from complaining about the little things?


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