Today, I received very valuable feedback from someone I look up to lately. A lady whose name pops up in several headlines and is quite a memorable person. I specifically engaged with her because I saw in her someone I could emulate and I wasn’t wrong. Today’s conversation was proof of that. And to sum it up, she recommended one area to improve about myself in one word; PROACTIVE.
This is one word that am sure even you have heard being used here and there and maybe like me, its real meaning had not properly related to you yet. I know I have heard and read it in may places but I think what I hadn’t properly related to was how it applied to my own self. God knows I would be so embarrassed if someone said that I have advised them to be proactive before because right now it’s almost a new word to me. However, with a few examples of current events, I was able to properly see what it meant. And then it sank in, the piece to the puzzle that I have been missing. Why everything has been slow for me lately and why I felt like all was against me in a way. It dawned on me in that moment, that I was being reactive, which in turn led me to think that something outside of me had to change for me to be better. Note that I had left this line of thinking way back and this was like a relapse of sorts. But let me share what it means to be proactive and a few steps am gonna take to improve in that area. I knew this, but I didn’t know that I did.
Proactive means acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.
It is a word that was coined to describe the kind of person who’s always looking into the future in order to be prepared for anything. The opposite of reactive. For example; a good parent attempts to be proactive on behalf of his or her children, trying to imagine the problems they might be facing in a few months or years and acting accordingly.
Stephen R Covey, in his book ‘The 7 habits of Highly Effective People’, had this to say;
Your life doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.
Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather. All of these external forces act as stimuli that we respond to. Between the stimulus and the response is your greatest power–you have the freedom to choose your response. One of the most important things you choose is what you say. Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language–I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language–I can’t, I have to, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do–they have no choice.
Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.
Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.
Reading this text shone a light on some of the things I stopped doing which had helped me maintain a proactive attitude and also highlighted some of the new habits that I need to adopt in order to be better as a person but even so, more productive on a daily. Maybe they could work for you too. Let’s explore them;
- I am “Response-able” like Stephen Covey says there. This only highlights the power we each have over the situations we are in or the events that happen to and around us. It simply means you have the ability to respond. Note that is ‘respond’ and not ‘react’. There is a difference between the two words though I have people use them interchangeably. Always remembering that you have the power over every situation gives you a better judgement to make a clear decision which will always favor you.
- Know your day: Plan ahead what your day will entail. It is advised to do this before you go to bed but some people do it better early morning. I am one of those. I would rather be an hour early and have a moment to sort out what I have to do than scribble my to-do list before bed because I tend to lose touch with the urgency of the activities planned that way, yet what I plan in the morning, I execute to absolute satisfaction.
- Live in the future: This is simply to say always think ahead of your current situation, this way you can easily anticipate outcomes and possible solutions that may save you time and resources. We tend to live so much in the moment and find ourselves stranded or in an emergency situation. I have learnt the hard way to always be ahead and on top of everything.
There are so many points I could but let’s first digest these ones and we will share more in a future post.