Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
The central distinction between being proactive vs. reactive is the difference between responding and reacting. Response is rooted in choice. Reaction is ruled by habit. Hence, 're-action', indicating an action repeated.
I first learned about proactivity from a course I took on Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people by my mother when I was 14 years old. It changed my life forever. I remember the first and most important habit of all, BE PROACTIVE. I have tried to practice that habit everyday, since the first day I heard it.
What I understood from it was, my life didn’t just happen, it was designed by me. I had a choice with how I approached every situation in my life, wether it as a fight I had with my brother or dealing with bad weather. I can choose to be happy, I can choose to fail, I can choose to have a good day or a bad one. I alone am responsible for my actions and how I respond to every situation and I made a decision earlier on that I will not be affected by my external environment.
In business, this habit has helped me the most. At the start of my career, very little things went my way. I had no strong portfolio, I had zero backing and zero funding, and I was young and experienced. It was constantly raining in London and people could be hard and rough to a new-be in a cluttered and busy city. I found that one could easily loose their cool over the little things. Like the bus not stopping at your stop or getting all your uni work drenched in rain hours before you have to present it. But what Stephen Covey said about proactivity always stayed with me, ‘Always have good weather inside of you, despite it being a rainy day.’ I could choose my response, and that gave me the strongest power. My language and how I behaved to different situations was an indication of how I saw myself. A proactive person always tries to see the silver lining, and on the other hand a reactive person will say that they had no choice in matters, and state what they cannot do. I refused to be a reactive person.
In the start up phase of your business, you need to be able to take control of what you can influence, your mind has to be able to do the math and react positively. It is crucial to not react, but take your time to calculate your next move unemotionally for the best interest of your work, your staff, and yourself.
In our culture we have many reactive people, Khaleeji’s are hot blooded by nature and passionate about their lives, their families, and their work. Most of us have come across reactive individuals and my advice to them has always the same, do not worry about conditions that you have no control over, focus your energy on what you can influence. Don’t loose energy crying over how others have conducted themselves, just focus on your state of mind, and on what you can do better yourself.
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.
To get in touch with Wafa, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @wafaobaidat