Taking Responsibility: Reactive vs. Proactive Language
Reactive vs. Proactive
Excerpt from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People….
From Pages 78 – 79
Listening to Our Language
Because our attitudes and behaviors flow out of our paradigms, if we use our self-awareness to examine them, we can often see in them the nature of our underlying maps. Our language, for example, is a very real indicator of the degree to which we see ourselves as proactive people.
The language of reactive people absolves them of responsibility. “That’s me. That’s just the way I am.” I am determined. There’s nothing I can do about it.
“He makes me so mad!” I’m not responsible. My emotional life is governed by something outside my control.
“I can’t do that. I just don’t have the time.” Something outside me-limited time-is controlling me.
“If only my wife were more patient.” Someone else’s behavior is limiting my effectiveness.
“I have to do it.” Circumstances or other people are forcing me to do what I do. I’m not free to choose my own actions.
Reactive Language: Proactive Language:
There’s nothing I can do. Let’s look at our alternatives.
That’s just the way I am. I can choose a different approach.
He makes me so mad. I control my own feelings.
They won’t allow that. I can create an effective presentation.
I have to do that. I will choose an appropriate response.
I can’t. I choose.
I must. I prefer.
If only. I will.
That language comes from a basic paradigm of determinism. And the whole spirit of it is the transfer of responsibility. I am not responsible, not able to choose my response.(Covey, 78)
A serious problem with reactive language is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People become reinforced in the paradigm that they are determined, and they produce evidence to support the belief. They feel increasingly victimized and out of control, not in charge of their life or their destiny. They blame outside forces – other people, circumstances, even the stars – for their own situation. (Covey, 79)
In coaching there are plenty of opportunities to see and work with athletes covering the entire spectrum of reactive versus proactive. When a coach works with a student-athlete in regards to academic studies, the biggest and most prevalent task to tackle first is that of moving them into a more proactive way of thinking. “My teacher just doesn’t like me.” “I just don’t do well with numbers.” “The professor’s lectures aren’t about anything to do with the class.” These are all actual quotes from college students I’ve worked with in the last 2 years. Moving them off of statements like that and into more proactive thinking is the challenge.
We work to solve this problem in a few ways. For example, we have constructed a pre-season classroom session that incorporates parts of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with study habits known to be successful in helping students make the transition from high school to college. We also talk to them and help them understand the concept of getting a degree versus getting an education. Feeling like they are doing much more than just trying to get the grade really makes a difference in how they approach their classes. It encourages them to take more responsibility for learning materials rather than wanting to passively sit and absorb random facts for the sole purpose of doing well on the exam. Another way we conquer this challenge is by having the students do exercises like creating class goals and action plans that will help them acheive those goals. This is mostly to help them feel as if they are in control. When issues arrise in the semester, we can refer to their action plans to remind them that they, and not some outside force, are responsible.
We find this type of ownership carries over to the court as well. When an athlete is more engaged in learning new techniques rather than just doing reps, the ability for deep practice is much greater. The concept of deep practice can be found in a book title “The Talent Code”. The link to that book’s website can be found on my website at www.theresabeeckman.com.
Much more to come on this topic…