One crucial difference is that animals are slaves to external stimuli, and can only react to these stimuli in the preprogrammed way that is in their nature.
We humans, in contrast, can reflect on a stimulus before responding to it, and we can even reprogram ourselves to respond in a specific, desirable way.
This means that instead of just reacting to the world around us, we have the ability to proactively influence it.
But even though we all have this capacity for proactivity, many people still choose to be reactive and allow external circumstances to dictate their behavior and emotions. For example, they may be in a crummy mood if it’s rainy outside or if other people have treated them poorly.
People who are proactive, on the other hand, make their own weather. They assume responsibility for their own lives and make conscious choices about their behavior.
Another way to understand the difference between the two attitudes is to imagine two concentric circles. The outer circle is your Circle of Concern, representing all the things you’re concerned about, ranging from the electricity bill to the threat of nuclear war. Inside this circle is the smaller Circle of Influence, which represents all the things you can actually do something about.
Proactive people focus on their Circles of Influence, choosing to work on the things within their control. And this results in the expansion of their Circles of Influence.
Meanwhile, reactive people focus on their Circles of Concern, fretting over things they can’t alter. This results in their Circle of Influence shrinking.
Proactivity can be a profoundly powerful habit.
Whether at home or at work, whenever you catch yourself blaming someone or something external for a problem you face, remind yourself that the root cause is your reaction to the problem. Focus on finding solutions instead of accusing others.