Reactive vs Proactive

Yesterday we hit on the two ways to live life – focusing on the proactive.

For a refresher on the definitions:

  • Reactive: acting in response to a situation rather than creating or controlling it.
  • Proactive: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened

Like a lot of us have a tendency to do, if we hold ourselves up to a lens of perfection it's easy to think that living 100% of our lives in the proactive state is the standard we should hold ourselves up against. 

Not true.

Let's drop our negative mental model of being reactive for a second and take a look at its essence: present-moment creativity.

Why Reactive Matters With Damn Early Days

"one thing that seems to play a big role in the success of influential artists is keeping a schedule."

There is at least one thing that unites all of us here, and that is an internal drive to create a raw life we're both proud to look back, at and stoked to live day-in-day-out. Call it hustle, call it drive, call it what you will, you're a damn artist.

Now, we all know that there is no way we are going to do that without being proactive and taking control (another reason why we are all here and doing this together), but the purpose of it all is actually to give ourselves space to live in the present moment, to be authentic and to be creative, to be reactive:

Interacting in real time with your humanity, with your thoughts, with your emotions, with your connection to your work, with the world and the people around you.

Especially getting into the second month, we are probably realising that having both consistently is a balance that isn't always easy to maintain. For some of us we probably default to one camp or the other:

  • Some of us are obsessively proactive in an effort to control our way into a creative life, which quickly becomes regimented, cold and too heavy to keep up when it doesn't give us the momentum we dreamed of.
  • Some of us seek unbridled expression - but that limitless reactivity doesn't do us any good either - that's where we feel emotionally charged, but ineffective like we are spinning our wheels. It's beautiful, but unfocused and undirected energy. Which can be devastating because we know we have so much to give.   

If you're in the first camp you might say, "Sometimes being proactive is being creative right?" 

Absolutely... But not exactly - the reason why it seems that way is because we have proactively made a container of time for ourselves to think, dream and create (plan). The "planning" itself is a reactive process within a proactively protected chunk of time. 

It's important to make that distinction because if we don't realise we are actually being reactive in those moments, we will never give reactivity the credit it deserves, and default back to sterilised proactivity when things get tough. 

If you're in the second camp, being reactive probably feels f***ing good - it's dynamic, it's ideas, it's expression, it's alive, it's "you". But it can quickly become chaos. And the "you" that is expressing yourself and coming up with ideas quickly falls behind the person you know you're capable of becoming, if you aren't anchored in something more concrete.         

How do we have more moments where we straddle both and just let ourselves flourish? 
It starts with giving both proactivity and reactivity the respect they deserve. 

It's not always that easy. We've probably been burned by one or the other before. Maybe too much planning cost us a relationship. Maybe too much reactivity cost us progress towards our potential. 

Another variable is that we have also probably had either one of them save our ass one time or another - which then quickly seared it into our mind as the fallback and safe default. 

The best way to get there is to trust that a balance of the two will win in the end. 

If you want to become an author within 21 DED, you have to both create the space, and then you show up and pour your heart into it. 


Back to the original quote

"one thing that seems to play a big role in the success of influential artists is keeping a schedule."

It's no coincidence that these immensely creative minds leant heavily on a schedule and routine: it set them free.

Being reactive is letting yourself freely flow and adapt to the situations and routines you chose to put yourself in: 

It's having a notebook and pen beside you during your 20 min. meditation to let yourself jot down any inspiration or ideas that come your way. You gave yourself that space, let yourself be free within it.

It's letting yourself go down a seemingly disconnected train of thought while writing only to realise that it came back full circle, or maybe it didn't, but f*** it, because it could have. 

It's evaluating and letting yourself react to how you feel about the goals and routines you've set yourself. Maybe they aren't serving you anymore, maybe you're not excited about them, and you go back to the drawing board because you catch yourself being dead set on sticking to them just for the sake of it.

It's listening to your gut and realising when you're not feeling fully alive anymore, and deciding to do something about it. Because building momentum is great, but it's got to be in a direction and that direction has to make you come alive.

Maybe that's why you signed up for 21 Damn Early Days in the first place.
You've got it. Channel it.

-Photo credit: Wendy Shepherd

Gordon Swenson