Reactionary vs Revolutionary: What’s Your Attitude to Change?

Reactionary vs Revolutionary

Broadly speaking, there are two outlooks on change. Reactionaries see change as a bad thing, something to be treated with caution. Revolutionaries celebrate and embrace change.

Take, for instance, attitudes towards the rapid changes in society due to technology. A reactionary would voice concerns about children playing video games, about the short attention spans caused by the internet, and about security and privacy risks. A revolutionary would talk about the new possibilities created – new ways of working, new art forms, and new connections with people all around the world.

Who’s right in the reactionary vs revolutionary debate? Neither. Sometimes, we need change in order to get rid of things that aren’t working. And sometimes, we need to recognize the value of what we already have.

Are You Reactionary or Revolutionary?

I suspect that you’ll find your attitudes towards personal change tend towards one end of the spectrum or the other. Maybe you’re very cautious about change and you feel very anxious at the thought of leaving your job or moving to a new city or even country. Or maybe you get bored if you stick in one place too long, and you want to always be on the move.

I think the healthiest attitude of change blends both the reactionary and the revolutionary outlooks. It’s a flexible way of looking at change and making the best of each situation.

Advantages of the Reactionary Mindset

Adopting a reactionary viewpoint lets you celebrate your achievements. It means you can look at the times when things have worked for you – and you can learn from these. I find that a good way to do this is to keep up my achievements book and to look at what’s already going well.

A reactionary mindset can help you avoid making unnecessary changes. Sometimes, we end up wanting change for its own sake – whether or not it’s really going to make things better for us. We can end up wasting a lot of time on this. Being reactionary can help keep us on track, especially with long-term goals and projects. Sticking with what worked yesterday or last week may actually be the best way to reach many of our goals.

Advantages of the Revolutionary Mindset

When you take a revolutionary viewpoint, you don’t limit yourself by what seems easy or comfortable – or even necessarily possible. You might write out your dream for the future – even if it looks very different from how your life is today. This can help create the motivation that you need to move forward.

Sometimes, our lives need sweeping change, and there’s no halfway house.

Blending the Two Attitudes to Change

So how do you know which way to approach change? I’d suggest that a good place to start is with your usual bias. For me, I know that I get itchy feet easily and I sometimes think that I need to make big, sweeping changes – when actually, I just need to make some small adjustments. Consciously taking a reactionary approach can help me stay balanced.

It’s also often useful to get an outside opinion. You probably have a family member or close friend who’s the polar opposite of you: my fiancé, for instance, tends to be more cautious about change than I am. Having someone to balance your excesses can help you avoid blind spots and potential mistakes.

When considering reactionary vs revolutionary changes, these are useful questions to ask:

Reactionary Outlook

  • How can I make small changes now to improve things?
  • What in life is going well at the moment?
  • Which relationships do I want to foster – and which do I want to let quietly fade?
  • How can I build on the successes of the past year?

Revolutionary Outlook

  • What would my ideal day look like?
  • What would I like to do which isn’t easily possible in my current circumstances?
  • Where do I need a fresh start, and how can I get it?
  • Is there a U-turn that I need to make?

Best of luck in all the changes that you choose to make this year – but also in all the things which you decide to keep the same!

12 thoughts on “Reactionary vs Revolutionary: What’s Your Attitude to Change?”

  1. I think I’m more a revolutionary guy. I like to see changes in the world and see new ways to interpret what we really know. For the reactionary part, I learned to be already very comfortable with what I already have, I just don’t treat that like an excuse to stop growing.

  2. Love the balance in this post – holding the reactionary and revolutionary mind-sets at the same time. Appreciating the now and building the future…

  3. I agree – I think a mix of the two is good. One the one hand, it’s important to remember that change in one’s life can bring new positive experiences and happiness – on the other hand, we can’t forget that it’s not necessary to do EVERYTHING all at once. Even a small chance can be satisfying :)

  4. Nice post. I love change, my girlfriend hates it and that’s one of the reasons why we work so well imo lol as u said a healthy balance is necessary.

  5. I like the idea of an achievements book. I will do this.

    As a professional interim manager I have to embrace change. But, more importantly I need to help people who may be reactionary, see the need for change. If people don’t see the need for change then it takes much longer to get the results. The trick is getting people to see the need, whilst making change happen.

  6. You must know the past and be aware in the moment and look forward to the future.
    The distinctions described in this article seems to be inspired by Jung’s Typology.

  7. I like revolutionary change as I find that it forces one to drive a change of thinking that creates beliefs faster than reactionary change. Which is usually caused by something else not as likely leading to the realization that a belief must change in order to advance the change desired.

  8. As with anything, and this article points it out, balance is key! Sometimes one is good, whereas other times the other is good. The problem, however, is determining which one is the correct one to employ at a particular point in time. Hitler’s sweeping changes were horrible and harmed millions of people. Obama’s health care may or may not be something that ends up being the right choice, if it passes. On the one hand, it is going to help people, but who is it going to help? People who vote for Obama and his friends, or people who really need the help? Besides balance, context is key, and i really cannot say which approach is best in most situations. Great article though – our political views are very polarized these days, and a little more balance would do everyone some good!

  9. Thanks for this wonderful insight. I never thought of it like this before. I like being a revolutionary (my company is actually called (R)evolutionScape – from the words revolution, evolution and landscape) but now I see the importance of balancing revolutionary with reactionary. Thanks!

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