Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote that the difference between reactive and proactive people is the weather.
When it’s gloomy, reactive people feel gloomy. If it’s sunny, reactive people feel great.
Proactive people, on the other hand, carry their own weather.
While it might be easier to wait for “the perfect time” to get started on making progress, life doesn’t work that way.
Every person waiting for the skies to clear is a proactive person getting started on their goal — rain or shine.
Getting started will be stressful and uncomfortable; but above all, it’s necessary.
Take back control with these 11 tips on how to be more proactive.
1. Always Have A Plan
The future is unpredictable. Most people tend to believe that their plans are all going to work out because, well, they believe it — but that isn’t how it works.
“Winging it” can only be so effective. While there is something to be said about going with the flow of life, it would still be wise to have a plan ready in your back pocket.
Make contingencies for the events that are most likely to occur.
Like in an event, designated planners need to make sure that they’ve got all their bases covered: there’s a backup catering service; the host has a ride; there are towels in the back just in case anyone spills their drink on themselves.
While life may not need strict planning, it’s always a good idea to have some notion of what you want to happen while being flexible enough to change it to adapt to the new situation.
2. Remember Your Why
Cruising through life can be a blessing and a curse.
The innocence and simplicity can only be disturbed by the daunting thought of what one’s purpose ultimately is.
Then begins a never-ending search for the reason for being.
As the German philosopher, Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
We can get so caught up in the daily busyness of life that we often don’t realize that we’re already straying from the path that we’ve chosen to take.
Challenges become overwhelming until the purpose becomes clear.
Then, it becomes just another step towards your goals.
3. Accept What’s Happened And Move On
Being proactive means being prepared for things that are going to happen ahead of time, not after the fact.
We’ve all made mistakes that we wish we could change: things we’ve said that we didn’t really mean, things we didn’t do but we wish that we did.
The fact of the matter is that what’s happened has happened.
The past is impervious to change, even to those who are proactive.
So don’t bother trying to alter history.
A more useful way to spend your energy is looking ahead with the lessons learned from the mistakes.
Once the past is accepted, there will be no more heavy emotional baggage to slow down progress and growth.
4. Don’t Shy Away From Change
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Once a method of communicating with your team at work has proven to be inefficient, there’s no use in hoping that it’ll work better the next time around if no change has been made.
People often fear change because they might feel insecure or because their ego stops them from doing so.
The problem with shying away with change is that it breeds stagnation and hampers growth.
Being proactive often means to have a growth mindset.
Having a growth mindset is what determines if what you’re looking at is an obstacle or an opportunity.
Failure no longer becomes discouraging; instead, it’s an opportunity to adopt a better system and method for going through life.
5. Don’t Wait For Others To Tell You What To Do
The work deck is cleared for the day.
There’s nothing else to be done.
What do we have the tendency to do?
We’d rather sit back, relax, and bide our time till the end of the day, bumming around while our colleagues continue on their own work.
While this kind of behavior can be comfortable, it isn’t exactly being proactive.
Being proactive means anticipating what’s to come next.
Instead of bumming around at the office till the end of the day, a proactive approach to the free time would be to look at what can be done.
If no one’s giving any assignments, then look for one.
There’s always going to be something that someone needs help with.
Since you’re available, there’s little reason not to help teammates with their problems — they might even repay the favor sometime in the future as well.
6. Watch What You Say
What we say has an impact on our mindset.
If you catch yourself saying that you can’t do something, you’re priming your mind to believe that, which is a prophecy that becomes self-fulfilling.
It’s setting a subconscious ceiling on your abilities, which stops you from improving skills and growing as a person.
We say that we want to exercise but can’t because we don’t have the time for it — but there’s time to browse on social media and stay in bed for a little while longer.
If the phrase, “I don’t have the time to work out” gets replaced with “My physical health is not a priority for me”, then the whole meaning gets altered; it shifts your mindset and clarifies how much you actually want what you say that you want.
7. Think About What Might Go Wrong
While it might seem discouraging to think of the worst case scenario, it would be helpful to prepare for that.
In their training here on earth, astronauts run through everything that could happen in space — especially the things that might go wrong.
They wouldn’t want an astronaut panicking in the dark void of space; so they let the astronauts panic in the blue void of a pool in Houston, Texas instead.
Running through each worst-case scenario equips each astronaut with the confidence that they need to approach any situation with a cool head and steady hand.
Think about the things that are most likely to happen if things started going south and prepare for that.
It’s in your best interest to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared.
8. Quit The Blame Game
Much of life now feels like it’s being dictated by others — brands, advertising, influencers.
It’s easy to blame them for your actions because you learned it from them anyway.
The energy spent on blaming others for the way that you’ve chosen to act could be better allocated to putting your head down and getting to work on improving your situation.
Taking responsibility for your actions is the most proactive thing that can be done because instead of reacting to the opinions of other people, you finally get to choose how your next action — whether it’s towards or away from your goal.
Stephen R. Covey says it best:
“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”
9. Be Honest
Honesty has benefits in all areas of life, even in making goals.
A proactive approach to setting goals would be the S.M.A.R.T. goal method, meaning that the goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound.
While proactive people make sure to set clear and honest goals for themselves — ones that are based on their own wants and not imposed by what they’ve consumed online — they make sure not to overextend and overwork themselves.
It’s about playing the long game. Being proactive doesn’t always mean working till you’re dead tired — sometimes, it’s about listening to your body and resting when you need to.
10. Get Organized
The achievement of a goal relies on one’s ability to organize the system to achieve it. Without creating a clear strategy, goals remain dreams.
Large goals can be daunting — if tackled without organization. Instead of seeing it as one large mountain to summit, goals can be broken down into small, actionable steps that are easy enough to do without feeling overly stressed about it.
The key is to create a step so small and easy that it’s almost harder not to do it.
If the goal is to get buff, 1 push-up a day seems manageable.
If 1 is easy, then might as well do 2. The momentum fuels the pursuit of a goal, making it seemingly easier to achieve it.
11. Surround Yourself With Proactive People
Being proactive isn’t always a trait people are born with.
By finding a tribe of others who’ve experienced the same want to get their life together, it not only validates your efforts but also pushes you to work harder to be more proactive.
While there are going to be times that you’re bound to slip back into old habits, pushing through the mistakes is what helps cultivate your new path.
In a group of other proactive people, there can be a sense of accountability to become proactive, which helps develop the habit, day in and day out.
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