What Is the Difference Between Proactive & Reactive?

Thinking before acting is proactive reasoning.

Proactive and reactive thinking are more than just two ways of thinking. Rather, they are a whole life philosophy. They are ways of looking introspectively and at the world outside of yourself. Most successful people think proactively first and reactively second.

1 Identification

Proactive thinking looks ahead to the future. It is the anticipation of an event that is known to happen. Reactive thinking is just that: an event occurs, and you react to it. Proactive thinking is preferred for many life situations, such as bill paying.

2 Proactive Planning

In proactive planning you must think about what to do before events happen, like planning your finances for a possible lay-off. You make choices and decisions based on your thinking.

3 Generative Thinking

Management consultant Edward de Bono stated that many intelligent people are not good thinkers. He states that many do not have "generative thinking." They are good at understanding and presenting facts, but not good in idea generation and development.

4 Significance

The significance is that proactive thinking leads to success, since you plan for the future. Reactive thinking is always one step behind, scrambling to fulfil a requirement. Proactive thinkers control the world around them. Reactive thinkers are controlled by the world.

Tony Oldhand has been technical writing since 1995. He has worked in the skilled trades and diversified into Human Services in 1998, working with the developmentally disabled. He is also heavily involved in auto restoration and in the do-it-yourself sector of craftsman trades. Oldhand has an associate degree in electronics and has studied management at the State University of New York.