From Reactive To Proactive

I spent some time yesterday looking back on how things have changed over the last 8 or 9 weeks.

During the first couple of weeks of escalating headlines and lockdown orders, I was purely reacting–and so were the small business owners in our community. We were thinking on the fly: reworking events, negotiating with clients, providing leadership, meeting needs.

My own reacting took the form of saying “yes” to just about everything that came my way. Yes, I can teach that. Yes, I can help. Yes, I can do that podcast interview. Yes, I can figure it out.

Liz Lemon saying: "Yes to love! Yes to life! Yes to staying in more!"

Then, things started to shift.

The next couple of weeks took a turn into cautious optimism. I heard people talk through opportunities and ideas. I watched as some folks made really smart pivots or realized they had tons of value to offer in new ways.

And despite being tired from all of the early reacting, I felt pretty happy and I was learning to enjoy the new structure of life and work.

Liz Lemon saying: "Eating night cheese and transitioning my pajamas into daywear."

In weeks 5 and 6, things shifted again. It got rough.

To me, it felt like all of the uncertainty and open-endedness of the crisis really sunk in. The novelty had worn off. The motivation had dispersed. And our nerves started to get really strained.

Personally, I started to shut down. But it felt like our community and my business(es) needed me more than ever. I felt (and continue to feel) completely unequipped to handle it all.

Liz Lemon patting Jack on the head and saying: "Don't be cry"

(Actual footage of me trying to comfort people…)

And now I’ve noticed that things have shifted again.

The shift I’m noticing now–both in myself and in others–is that we’re starting to dip our toes into being a little more proactive. We’re starting to create some plans–no matter how loosely we’re holding them or how short-term they may be.

I think what’s going on is that, while we might not yet know what the “new normal” might be, we are realizing that having some plans puts us in a better position to adapt than just simply reacting.

I realized that, while becoming really flexible and adaptable early on was the right thing to do, I needed to reclaim structure, boundaries, and systems to support myself and the people who are looking to me for leadership. I need a firm foundation and clear expectations to work from.

Liz Lemon saying: "I want to go to there."

This is the work of transitioning away from being reactive and toward being proactive again.

Last week, I asked you to consider the question “What kind of business do I want to be running?

That question is really helpful for this phase. So is just simply, “What do I want next?” and “How do I want to feel?” (Hat tip to Bonnie Gillespie for reminding me about the second.)

Maybe, as Lou Blaser reminded me last week, you realize that what you want isn’t a business. Maybe you realize that what you want is to focus on the clients you have instead of reaching out to find new ones. Maybe you realize that what you want is to finally stretch into new territory because you see how much value there is in creating for new people.

We will all have different answers to these questions. And we will all likely change our answers a few times before things start to even out.

But I think that most of us–if not all of us–can benefit from starting to shifting our thinking out of the reactive mode we’ve been in and start to invite in more proactive thinking.

We might not be able to control what’s going on around us or even in the businesses we lead but we can focus in on what we want, the structure we need to thrive, and the many shapes that might take.

Be well,


Tara McMullin
Founder, What Works

P.S. Our bunch of our mastermind members have started illustrating their monthly reviews with GIFs and I was inspired to give it a try. Don’t worry, I won’t be plastering you with GIFs every week!


This month, we’re tackling how lonely entrepreneurship can be and the tools & techniques we can use to feel more supported and take better care of ourselves. (Oddly enough, this was the topic we chose back in November.) To kick things off, I spoke with Chris Brogan about living with depression and anxiety and how he’s structured his business to allow for his natural ups and downs.

🎧 Click here to listen.


One of my guilty entertainment pleasures is the daily YouTube show Good Mythical Morning. It’s hosted by 2 40+ year old guys who have been best friends since 1st grade. They play wacky games and eat wackier food all for the views (and to make people laugh, of course). In search of more lighthearted quarantainment, I recently started listening to their podcast, Ear Biscuits, and this week’s episode was all about the lessons they’ve learned building their business. It was really good–and full of a lot of the same scenarios and lessons that I’ve gone through, too.

🎧 Click here to listen.


It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut with the way you approach planning and problem-solving. Those ruts are actually mental models–the frameworks you gravitate to when it comes to working out an idea or making a decision. But there are tons of other mental models you could be using to get a different look at what’s in front of you. Here are 30 mental models–some to watch out for, others to try.

👓 Click here to read.


Lots of people are thinking about making adjustments to their pricing to become more accessible to those who have lost jobs, become sick, or are otherwise facing hardship. And, of course, hardship is not unique to this unique time. Creative pricing can be a beautiful thing and it deserves a thoughtful approach that takes both your business’s sustainability and your accessibility goals into account. A client share this article in a mastermind session this week and I wanted to pass it on to you.

👓 Click here to read.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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What Type of Goal-Setter Are You?

What Type of Goal-Setter Are You?

I've explored goal-setting and planning with small business owners, creatives, and independent workers for over 12 years now. That means I've observed many different types of goal-setters. Some confidently choose a new goal and get to work. Others rebel against...

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support