Proactive or Reactive?

We find ourselves in crazy times with the current pandemic situation. All lectures and assignments are taking place online, people have moved home, and MRPs are now either postponed or desk-based. Despite this chaos, I’ve found myself with more time on my hands than usual, and have been hitting the podcasts hard…

One episode of The Wooden Spoon resonated with me, and I thought I’d share my subsequent research with you. The podcast outlined the various approaches to work, namely Proactive and Reactive, and it made me stop and think. Since coming to university, I’ve always put as much effort in as possible to get the top grades, achieving one of four First Class Honours degrees that year in Bioveterinary Science. I achieved 73%, got onto my Masters course, and was over the moon. I would always describe myself as a busy and productive person And probably would have continued this year in much the same way had I not stopped to think about this. Despite my hours of work, days on end revising or writing assignments, the 16 months it took me to complete my honours research project; it was all REACTIVE.


One of the photos that didn’t make it to the grandaparents’ wall…

Reactive learning is the norm, we get set work by teachers or lecturers, we do the work, submit it and largely forget about it. Or we study for an exam, and the day it’s over put our work to the back of the pile. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s how we were mostly taught. I always describe myself as a busy person, with training and competing for my university rowing and polo teams as well as a full commitment to a bird of prey and trying to achieve good grades, get 9 hours of sleep and be social. However, after podcasts and this video I realised perhaps there’s more to the learning than I currently do.

Now, I searched for a definition of proactive working that I could coherently explain in a small blog post, and this is the closest I could find: Proactive tasks are aligned with your long term-goals, and have a strong long-term benefit. These may not directly relate to academic or other work. In short, proactive work is that for bettering yourself, for your life and not just for the immediate future. Of course in my current state, reactive work is important to get a degree. But also, if I could put aside some time for something which doesn’t relate to my degree, which would benefit my life in some way for the future, that is proactive working. With the current lockdown situation, I’ve settled on spending more time outside photographing insects in my local area, and teaching myself to code. I highly recommend the podcast and video I’ve linked, and perhaps a wider search for something that explains it to you better than I’ve managed in this word-vomit blog post. But hey, even this is proactive working! To conclude, the weirdest quote I found in my whole trawl of podcasts, videos, and literature about the subject:

“If you feel like a rudderless boat which is in chaotic motion without you taking charge at the helm, remind yourself that you can take the helm and can be the captain of your ship.”

(More entomology blog posts coming soon I promise…)


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