We live in a reactive society. It means that most people go about their normal routines until something interrupts them. Then they work feverishly to try and adapt and when they fail, blame everyone and everything around them.
That’s what we call the REACTIVE approach.
There is a better way. It involves anticipating what COULD change and developing a contingency plan for it.
That’s what we call the PROACTIVE approach.
Here’s an example. Since I fly nearly 40 weeks out of the year, I am rarely thrown for a loop when it comes to travel problems such as weather delays, flight cancellations, or overbooked flights. I’ve done it enough to know what to avoid and then of course how to deal with issues. Here are my proactive steps:
- Fly non-stop when possible.
- Avoid connections through troublesome airports such as Newark, LaGuardia, JFK, DFW, Atlanta, Chicago, or Charlotte. Too many weather delays here.
- Take morning flights. In the Spring and Summer, weather tends to cause flights to stack up increasing chances of delays.
- Carry on luggage only. This way if you have to make a flight change, you’re not held hostage by your checked luggage.
These are my PROACTIVE steps. If I do them, I’ve decreased my chances for travel problems.
However nothing is ever fully predictable or certain so here are my REACTIVE steps:
- Use a travel app like FlightTrack to notify me if a flight has changed or cancelled.
- Keep the airline’s phone number programmed into my phone.
- If a flight cancels, immediately get in line for customer service and dial up the airline. You often can get hold of someone faster but you hedge your bets by already being in line.
- Know your final destination well enough to gauge whether you should fly to a different airport and drive some.
These PROACTIVE and REACTIVE steps work well for me and I know they will for you.
But how can you apply this to the rest of your life?
Just spend some time each day anticipating.
If you have an important business presentation to make, do the proactive steps:
- Make sure you have it on your laptop, on a thumb drive, and in the Cloud.
- Embed any video inside your slides with a copy on your desktop. Don’t depend on Internet connectivity.
- Be sure you have every possible set of adapters you will need.
- Keep a hard copy with notes.
- Be prepared to give your presentation even if the A/V stuff craps out on you. Nothing makes you look more incompetent than if you can’t proceed without your precious PowerPoint®
Your reactive steps of course would be how you would deal with technology glitches. Keep in mind that NOBODY will say “oh, he didn’t have his slides working. How disappointing!”
The same rules apply to anything else that’s important. Plan and anticipate.
Nothing is absolutely certain so rather than leave things to chance, learn to be proactive. Your ability to adapt will set you apart from your competitors and detractors.