Reactive vs Proactive Language

Most of us tend to use REACTIVE language in our day to day lives: “I CAN’T do that because I MUST do this”. Changing to PROACTIVE language can have a profound effect on your life: “I DON’T WANT to do that because I WANT to do this”.

I NEED vs I WANT
I MUST vs I PREFER
I CAN’T vs I CHOOSE

Reactive Language

Most of us tend to use reactive language in our day to day lives: “I CAN’T do this because I MUST do that”. The reality of the situation is that you probably don’t have to do the second thing and probably CAN do the first thing.

Outside of being bound by the laws of physics, there are very few things in life that you HAVE to do or that you CAN’T do. So why do we use those words?

Using reactive language absolves you of responsibility but also makes you powerless: “I am not responsible. I am not able to choose my response. There is nothing I can do about it”.

WHAT YOU SAYWHAT YOU MEAN
I can’t do that.
I just don’t  have the time
Something external (limited time) is controlling me
If only my boss were more patientSomeone else’s behaviour is limiting my effectiveness
I have to do itCircumstances or other people are
forcing me to do what I do. I am not free to choose my own actions.
Examples of reactive language.

Proactive Language

Reactive LanguageProactive Language
I need…I want…
I must…I prefer…
I can’t…I choose…

This subtle change in language can make a huge positive impact in your life.

Examples

REACTIVE
“I wish I could take 6 months off and travel the world but I can’t because I have to work and I don’t have enough vacation.”

PROACTIVE #1
“Although I would love to take 6 months off and travel, my financial security and my career are currently more important to me. I choose not to go on this trip so that I can focus on my career instead.”

PROACTIVE #2
“The experience of travelling is much more important to me than my job or my financial security. So I will convince my boss to give me a 6 month sabbatical (or just quit?) and I will go on this iconic journey.”

Re-evaluate your Paradigm

Saying that “I DON’T WANT TO go on a wonderful 6 month trip because I WANT TO work” is difficult and counterintuitive.  By changing your language you will re-evaluate your reality:

  • Do I really want to keep working instead of travelling?
  • How important is seeing the world to me?
  • How important is my job or career?
  • Is this job really what I want to do?
  • What is truly important to me?

There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. But asking these questions is important and empowers you to change.

Be Precise in your Speech

How you talk reinforces what you believe to be true. By being reactive with your language, you reinforce that you are powerless. By being precise and truthful with your language, you accept responsibility for your choices and gain the power to change those choices and to change your situation.

Take Responsibility.
Make it your Fault.

Until you can honestly say that “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday” you cannot say “I choose otherwise”.

Never blame others for failures.  Always blame yourself. The moment you blame another person or some external circumstance, you become powerless to change the results:

THEIR FAULT
“The project failed because we didn’t get enough support from the marketing department. They need to do a better job next time.”

YOUR FAULT
“The project failed because I did not mobilize the marketing department effectively. Next time I will change my strategy and make a more effective presentation explaining the importance of their role in the success of this project.”

The more responsibility you take, the more power you have to change.

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