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Do You React or Respond?

Steve Pavlina (*) made an interesting point on his blog today: Reaction vs. Response (↑)”.

Steve writes about some teachings in martial arts, where the difference between reacting and responding is a subject of training. To put it short in my own words:

  • Reaction is dictated and controlled by the other party, whereas
  • Response is under your control.

This is an analogy for business life as well. Now, my opening question becomes a different, a deeper meaning.

  • Are you in reactive mode all the time, waiting for something to happen that keeps you busy dealing with just that situation, or

  • Are you in responsive mode? Are you prepared? Are you confident that you can deal with any kind of situation in an authentic way?

Being constantly in reactive mode will throw you off balance in the long run. When you allow other people and circumstances to push you around, how will you stick with your plan? How will you be able to get done, what you need to get done by yourself?

An example might be a sales manger, who is distracted by clients and his staff all day long, because of an open door policy and the lack of proper delegation of tasks. Instead of getting his work done, he constantly reacts to other peoples inquiries.

Switching to responsive mode requires some degree of determination. You need to take control that means you respond on your terms not theirs. For example the sales manager can train his staff, that he will deal with their questions at a certain time of day only, unless it is really urgent, and that most topics actually should be treated in a weekly meeting, when the whole team comes together.

What about the clients, who are used to call the sales manager directly all the time? Well, doesn't that show that there might me something wrong in the organization? Why are they not calling the sales rep, customer support or the billing department directly? Is it the sales managers job to transfer those phone calls? (After having been engaged in small-talk for 10 minutes or even more.) When you finally fix those problems, then you are responding to the situation properly and will move forward.

Now you should do a little exercise:

  • Write down the areas of your life, where you are repeatedly reacting?
  • Think about, what needs to be done to stop that. What would the proper response be?

Thank you Steve for the inspiration for this article.

John W. Furst

(*) (↑) has become one of the most popular blogs dedicated to Personal Development


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Daniel Sitter, Idea Seller on :


I enjoyed your take on this topic John. I wrote an article last year addressing the same topic from a slightly different perspective that you might enjoy reading. There really is a critically important distinction between the two words!

PS. I clicked on BlogRush when I saw the title of your post.

John W. Furst on :


Hi Daniel, thank you for taking the time and letting me know. We have to proactively control our life, create rules that work best for us. "Work smarter not harder" (Chet Holmes, I believe, says that).

But the majority of people allow to be controlled by others. As you write in your article, the resulting stress can be a reason for serious health problems. Thanks for your contribution. and letting me know that you came from the BlogRush cloud. :-)

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