• Foreseeing and intervening in anticipation of future needs or changes
  • Initiating and preparing beforehand rather than reacting afterwards
  • Taking steps ahead of time based on training, knowledge and experience


A connection exists between being proactive and reactive. They are not mutually exclusive and one can never exist apart from the other.

  • Proactive is being reactive ahead of time.
  • Reactive is being proactive a little late.

In many cases, my ability to be proactive is a direct result of a previous outcome or experience. I now know that I should pack my cell phone charger when I travel. I am proactive now because one time – actually more than one time – I did not pack my cell phone charger. I was reactive and I had to go buy another one; but now I am proactive!

Do you see the connection? Being reactive is not a bad thing. Reacting is an important part of life and it is through reactions that we can respond, learn, and adapt.

In other situations, we may even choose to be reactive. Frankly, there are times that being proactive may not make that much sense. If the cost associated with being proactive is ridiculously high, or if the downside to being reactive is super low low, then it may just be better to be reactive. For example, I am not planning on putting new shingles on my house this weekend. I have lived in my house for 9 years. I know that at some point the shingles on the roof will need to be replaced. I accept that. However, I am not stocking up on shingles today; nor have I called a contractor to replace my roof. I will take care of that when the day comes. Maybe I will notice a small leak – or if the roof is getting close to its expected life span, I may even decide to get proactive and hire someone to come inspect it for me. But today, I am not going to be proactive with the roof of my house.


I know people that plan waaaaaaay too much in advance, and end up wasting a lot of time and energy in the process. I also know people that never, ever seem to take action ahead of time, and they, too, end up wasting a lot of time and energy in the process.

It is important to be proactive and reactive. It takes a degree of wisdom and good judgment to know which things require planning and preparation ahead of time, and which things don’t. I desire to strike the right balance: to recognize the difference between the situations and responsibilities in my life that require careful pre-planning and work, and the other stuff that is okay to let go of. My aim is to give the most attention to those things that really matter the most… and for those other things? I am willing to just react.

Key words and phrases

Acting in anticipation; Causing something to happen; Taking steps based on experience; Foreseeing; Preparing beforehand; Intervening ahead of time; Initiating instead of reacting; Farsighted planning and action

Opposite terms

Shortsighted; Reactionary; Improvident; Myopic


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