An example from basketball. If a guard has the ball on the three-point line and I’m defending, I can react to his shot fake, to his jab step, to his fake pass, to how he shifts his weight forwards, backwards and from foot-to-foot. But if I do that, it won’t take long for me to be tied in a knot. The guard just has to be patient, feeding me multiple stimuli to react to, and waiting until I commit too much to one in particular. Then he goes another way. Alternatively, I can be still, wait for the guard to dribble to the right, shuffle backwards a few steps and get to his destination before he does.
I can react based on what I see—or think I see. Or I can act on what is about to happen—or what I think is about to happen. If I do the former, I’m relying on raw physical attributes—speed, agility, reaction time, balance. If I do the latter, I’m relying on raw intellectual capacity—sense-making, pattern recognition, tactical or strategic comprehension. Both are fraught with risk. Both can lead to defeat and to victory. The question is, which do I choose? Preempt or follow? Act or react?