The 1977 hit, Slip Slidin' Away, by folk-rock singer Paul Simon is beautifully poetic but contains some rather fatalistic lyrics.

We’re working our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip sliding away

Many people live their lives “slip sliding away,” leading a reactive life that drifts aimlessly without accomplishing much. For leaders, this is a recipe for disaster.

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We don't have to slip through life. Instead, we have the choice to live reactive or proactive lives. Here is a deeper look into these lifestyles:

  • Reactive Living. Reactive individuals drift through life (slip sliding away), waiting for things to happen, simply responding to challenges and obstacles as they come.

  • Proactive Living. Proactive individuals take responsibility for their present and future. They don’t drift through life going wherever fate takes them, but anticipate situations and possible obstacles, developing ways around them.


Reactive living will have us “slip sliding away," eventually leading somewhere we never intended to go. Unfortunately, living a reactive life comes with negative consequences.

  • We Get Lost. Reactive living requires much effort. With all life throws our way, it is easy to find ourselves without purpose... lost in a sea of obstacles and opportunities.
  • We Waste Time and Resources. Living a reactive life is costly, spending resources on activities that do not contribute to our vision.

  • We Miss Opportunities. Many young people waste the best years of their lives drifting without purpose.

  • We Suffer. Constantly living reactively, putting out fires, not only hurts us but those we love as well.


Contrary to a reactive lifestyle, living proactively has great benefits but takes effort on our part. Here are four things proactive individuals do systematically and intentionally.

  1. Take Responsibility. Proactive people recognize they need to pay the price to get things done (or correct mistakes).

  2. Set Goals. One of the essential characteristics of proactive living is looking forward. The past is important but only to celebrate achievements or learn lessons to help prepare for the future.

  3. Create Margin. Even with the best planning, things will go wrong. Proactive leaders leave margin for the unexpected in their lives.

  4. Develop Processes. This sounds more complicated than it is. The art of developing processes is simply a matter of living a disciplined life.

In essence, proactive people refuse to simply "slip slide" through life. When proactive people lead, their chances of success are greatly improved.


Do you consider yourself proactive? What could you change to include one or more of these proactive practices in your life?

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