Here’s the thing… I’ve come to realise that pretty much everything I’ve ever done in my life has been reactive. It’s how we’re raised, it’s how we’re taught.
Someone asks you to do something, you oblige. Reactive.
The teacher tells you how to do the work; you follow the instructions. Reactive.
You go to college/uni etc because it’s expected. Reactive.
You get a job, your boss gives you a list of what needs doing, dumps a stack of papers on your desk, sends you an email…. you get it done, but it’s all reactive!
Someone going for a job and putting on their resume/CV that they’re a ‘Proactive member of the team’ generally means they’re actively going to look for someone to give them something to do. It’s still reactive work.
Here’s why I’ve been coming a little unstuck.
I started my own business – Proactive move. I wanted to be in control of my own life, rule my own kingdom. But guess what?! I’m still in Reactive Mode! The same one that I’ve been in for the past 30+ years.
I’ve been in my business over a year now, and I’m STILL messing around in reactive mode.
How am I in Reactive mode?
I wait for clients to come to me – they’re not gonna. They barely know I exist!
I hired a coach to teach me what I needed to do – I did the work as and when told, but barely before/after that. I know what I need to do, but I haven’t been doing it. I was doing it because that’s what I was TOLD to do… get it? Reactive!
I say “Yeah, sure, no problem” to things that people ask me to do because sometimes it’s easier than saying no. Even when I feel like crap because of it and in my head, I’m screaming “NNNOOOO!!! Just. Say. NO! Urgh, I don’t wanna. Waahhh! Why did you just say yes?!” (yeah, that’s my inner monologue, right there! And I end up left feeling like crap) I just do what I’m asked – Reactive. When asked if I can “just fit something in” by anyone; friend, family, client, whoever, I say “Yeah, sure, no problem” and then bump MY stuff to the sidelines. Why? Because I’m working in REACTIVE mode.
Here are tell-tale signs you’re living in reactive-mode;
ONE – You’re always running around doing other people’s shit, just because they asked you to.
TWO – your to-do list is basically a book. A book of all the stuff other people have asked you to do. Your own stuff now fits in the Appendix section, cos you’re too busy doing (or squeezing in) everyone else’s stuff first.
THREE – You laugh when people ask what you do on your ‘downtime’ – Downtime? Hint: It’s NOT that part of the day/week when you collapse in a heap on the sofa/bed unable to move because you’re exhausted.
FOUR – You keep turning to other people; peers, mentors, coaches, ANYONE who looks like they’ve got their shit together, to try and figure out what you need to do next. (And then you only do it because they said so)
FIVE – When you’re left to do your own thing, you have no fucking clue what it is you’re meant to be doing, You sit at your desk/computer, wherever and stare at it blankly because you have no idea what to do with it, you just know you’re supposed to be doing something.
SIX – You have notifications for everything. Desktop pop-ups, calendar reminders, Facebook/Messenger (and/or any other social media) and email notifications on your phone. You check them every time they ping, and even when they don’t.
How do you STOP living in reactive mode, and switch to Proactive?
It’s not going to be easy. There are times when I struggle, but I’m getting better at it.
Here are 10 steps to help you become PROACTIVE in your life.
ONE – Turn off ALL notifications. All of them, every single one. On your desktop, your calendar, your phone. Everything. Head into your phone settings and switch off all notifications. You don’t need them. Make your smartphone as dumb as it can get. Then head into your browser settings and turn off push notifications. You don’t need those either. If it’s really important to you, you’ll go look at it. You won’t need a reminder.
Feeling weird? Good. You’ll get used to it. it’s funny how easily we got used to notifications over the past few years. Before long you’ll be enjoying the freedom of CHOICE without the pressure of needing to react to every little bleep, flash or pop up.
TWO – What do you want to do? What’s your next goal? What’s your big vision? How are you going to get there? What do you keep putting off, but no matter what, it’s still rattling around in your brain and your heart… Make this your priority. Write a list of everything you need to do to achieve that goal, and what will take you closer to that vision being a reality. This is now your priority. You need to stop ignoring this immediately.
THREE – Set targets. This can be very difficult. Especially if you’ve never set targets before. I hadn’t, and it took a boot camp with an amazing coach to make me realise it. She taught me how. You need to be able to track these targets properly. “Talk to people about ‘X’ “” isn’t good enough. “Talk to 3 people about ‘x’ every day” is so much better. You can track that, you know whether you’ve spoken to three people or not. If you have, great! If you haven’t speak to 4 tomorrow until you’ve caught up.
FOUR – Plan the actions that will help you get to your targets. Need to speak to people? Where are you going to find them? Need to write a blog post/social media post? How many? When are you going to write them/post them? Leaving these things to chance doesn’t work. You’ll never get them done while you’re reacting to everything that comes your way.
FIVE – Dedicate time to your targets and action BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE. This doesn’t mean you have to do these things first in your day. It simply means block off the time you need to do these things before you plan in anything else.
SIX – Look at your to-do list. The one that’s full of everyone else’s stuff. What do you want to do? Really. The stuff that lights you up and makes you feel good and excited about doing. Figure out when it needs to be done by, how long it’s going to take and put that into your calendar.
SEVEN – If there’s still stuff on your list, that you need to do, if there’s only YOU that can do it, then it’s time to put that in your calendar. Suck it up this time around. It doesn’t mean you need to do it again, but if you’ve agreed to it and it’s too late to go back, do it this time, but make sure you say no next time.
EIGHT – Send the rest back to where it came from. Be nice about it, but let them know you can no longer do what they asked of you. You don’t need to explain why, but still be nice about it. Apologise for any inconvenience caused, but make it clear that you are no longer take on those tasks. They don’t need an explanation. Don’t make excuses. Just be clear and concise. End of. If they ask why, then you can tell them, you don’t need to go into too much detail, and you don’t need to do it upfront as then it can seem like you’re making excuses.
NINE – Follow your new plan! Use the plan you created in steps five to eight, and stick to it. Do what needs to be done, and watch what happens. Be brave. Stick to your guns and say no to the things that don’t serve you. Only ‘add things in’ if you genuinely have time to do so. Don’t bump stuff just to fit things in through guilt. ESPECIALLY your own stuff. It’s time to stop being reactive and start being proactive instead.
TEN – Enjoy your new found freedom, and watch the amazing stuff happen in your life. It’s probably going to feel a bit strange until you get used to this new way of living your life, but it needs to be done. You’ll get used to it, and so will everyone else who’s used to pulling on your time. Don’t worry about it! Enjoy it.
Tell me… how do you live your life? Are you reactive, or proactive? Have you always been that way, or did you make the change? How is it going for you? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.