How would you like to acquire or sharpen a skill essential to living a good life and having a promising career? The great thing about this skill is that as you continue honing it, you move your life in a direction that will serve you for years to come.
To learn more about this essential skill, read on!
You have likely heard about this skill reasonably often, but how strongly have you embraced it?
Every time you see Nike’s tagline, “ just do it,” it can remind you of it. It is known as being enterprising, decisive, proactive, taking responsibility, and just plain old taking charge and acting!
This article will generally use the broader term proactive — meaning taking timely, effective action. To be proactive is to initiate action before a situation or circumstance happens.
By acting in advance, you create what you want, gaining control rather than losing it by waiting, reacting, or responding. In other words, you have a choice. Either you control it, or it will control you. Better you are in control than being controlled, don’t you think?
The definition of proactive is clear:
proactive (adjective) — (of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened. Oxford Languages
With a clear understanding of what proactive means, it is again important to note being proactive is not reacting or even responding.
Think about a typical day at work. Many of us are in a reactive-responsive mode much of the day. The term reactive-responsive means something else is causing you to act. Although being responsive sounds like you may be in control, it is only a different way of reacting. How you respond to a situation is usually because of how life has conditioned you. It is a world apart from being proactive and creating.
What causes you to be in this reactive-responsive mode? You, your environment, and other people. The telephone, email, meetings, colleagues, customers, and similar things often dictate what we do. Living in a reactive-responsive mode is to be in a state of being constantly tossed to and fro, creating tremendous undue stress. That is no way to live!
When you take control of your day, you can create it rather than being controlled by it. Sure, there are plenty of times when we must respond to circumstances. Yet, there are plenty of opportunities to get ahead of them too.
“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” Oprah Winfrey (1954-present)
You have many options in life, and it is in these options that being proactive comes into play. If you work in an office, you can block out time on your calendar for specific tasks, close the door, put your phone on do not disturb, and get down to business. If you work from home, you essentially have the same options. You can block out time on your calendar for specific tasks, go to another room or somewhere else, turn off your phone, and get down to business.
The secret to becoming proactive is to take charge of your time in advance. This is easiest to do using your calendar. Once time is blocked out proactively, just do it! It’s your choice. It’s your life. It’s up to you to act!
What about those situations that seem out of your control? For example, a customer is very irate because of some company policy. Perhaps your boss is not around to make an important decision. Or some other circumstance or situation is in your way of doing what is right.
Get out of the reactive-responsive mode, and shift to being proactive. Create what is needed. If you must get something done, try this — ACT! Instead of waiting for something to happen, make it happen.
Many of us have been in these situations, but who can fault you when you do the right thing? At the very least, you will learn something!
As the old saying goes,
“It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.” Admiral Grace Hopper (1906–1992)
When Admiral Hopper made this statement, it had a specific meaning. She meant to take action in the right way, not the wrong way. The right way involves acting because it is good for the organization or others. The wrong way is to do it for self-serving or selfish reasons. It should not blatantly be against policy unless someone is in harm’s way. Be smart when using such a tactic!
“Do what today others won’t, so tomorrow, you can do what others can’t.” Brian Rogers Loop (c. 1990-present)
Do you want to be known as the one who takes the initiative, a proactive, can-do person? Or do you want to be known as one who hesitates, does not take the initiative, and is a maybe-do or might-do kind of person?
Which type of person do you think will get that next job, promotion, or pay raise? The can-do or the might-do person?
The ball is in your court. Think ahead and do a little planning, then act, or forever be pulled and pushed around by the situations and circumstances of life.
To put it in Shakespearean terms:
To act or not to act, that is the question!
It’s your life and, therefore, your choice to make. Please consider applying the following wisdom in your life:
“I believe that everyone chooses how to approach life. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.” John C. Maxwell (1947-present)
I hope you choose the first option!
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