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Is Your First Response to Problems Reactive or Proactive?

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Stop. Think. Act.

Our reactions to circumstances can be negative or positive, reactive or proactive. We can experience a range of emotions: anger, fear, anxiety, curiosity, worry, hate, joy, betrayal, rejection, shame, inadequacy… and the list goes on.

Reactive responses

When we are reactive, our decisions are often hasty and impulsive because we don’t consider how our response might affect us or others.

  • When we focus solely on our differences, disagreements turn into ongoing conflicts.
  • Resentments turn into grievance stories that we repeat over and over in our minds.
  • When it seems that everything is going wrong or badly, we remain angry, strike back, attack, and go on the defensive.

Responses based only on the emotions in the moment lack judgment, clarity, and discretion. We can quickly become aggressive because we believe it is the only way we have control over our lives. Before long, we become jaded and cynical. We become like a piece of laundry hanging on a clothesline that is whipped round and round by whatever wind is blowing through.

We become victims.

Proactive responses

When we are proactive, we take charge of our emotional reactions, even those that are painful or offensive, and choose how to respond.

  • We proceed with caution when we sense danger.
  • We relax and enjoy moments of happiness with laughter and contentment.
  • We look beyond the troubles and find kernels of joy, satisfaction, and contentment.

Being proactive means focusing not on how we feel in the moment, but on we want and can do, and then moving towards purposeful decision-making and problem-solving.

Being proactive does not mean we won’t experience anger or aggressive emotions. All emotions are important and give us information we need to make judgments. It is what we do with that emotional information that helps us defend, protect, and define ourselves.

When we are proactive, we choose a response that reflects our point of view and maintains our dignity, integrity, and sense of worth, while simultaneously respecting the other person.

How do you respond to difficult situations?

Reflect on your typical way of responding to difficult situations:

  1. Do I respond based more on what has happened to me in the past or what is happening right now?
  2. Is my response based on a low sense of esteem?
  3. Is there a typical negative pattern that is hurting versus helping my responses to problems?
  4. Is my response doing more harm than good?
  5. How can I respond proactively, in a self-directed manner?
  6. How can I replace attitudes, thinking, and behavior problems that create conflict with ones that look for ways to respect and share?
  7. How can I set and maintain boundaries?
  8. How can I be firm without becoming aggressive?

As we learn more about ourselves, patterns of behavior soon become evident. Behind those behaviors are the emotions, thoughts, and beliefs that drive them.

We can take charge of them!

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