Let’s make a bet:
I bet that most of the things you did today were in response to something else.
- You got out of bed because the alarm went off.
- You went to work for the fear that if you didn’t you’d get fired.
- You checked your phone in response to the bird-chirp notification.
In other words, these actions were, in fact, reactions.
You live by Newton’s first law of motion:
You remain at rest unless an outside force acts upon you.
And that, my friend, is a terrible law to live by.
Let me tell you why:
The only person who cares about what you want is you.
Do you think an outside force is going to come along and make you achieve your goals?
If you just float around the ocean like a piece of seaweed, the waves will push you to wherever suits them.
People will use you and your skills to fulfill their goals, not yours.
Your boss isn’t looking out for your best interest. He’s using your performance to get that raise.
Evidently, reactivity is not a personality trait of successful people.
You know what is?
Being proactive is the #1 quality that drives achievement.
What Does Being Proactive Mean?
Your alarm goes off, what do you do?
You turn it off because that ringing is so darn annoying. Then, you get out of bed and wash your face.
Typical reactive behavior.
But what happened before the alarm went off?
You set it, obviously.
You made the conscious decision that you would wake up tomorrow at this time and set the alarm to make that happen.
And that is what being proactive means.
Proactivity is about doing things before the circumstances mandate them. You start your own business now before you get fired.
You take control of your life now because you want to and not because you have to.
Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life.
You decide to make something happen and do it.
You don’t wait for that opportune moment, you create it.
You dream of becoming the next Bill Gates. Unfortunately, you studied chemistry in college and have no idea where to start.
All you know is that you need to learn how to code.
You sign up for a coding course; your teacher gives you a few projects to complete. You nail the basics.
Then, the course is over.
Most coding courses only help you reach a certain level and then leave you to your own devices.
You have no one holding you accountable; no one telling you what to do next and what programs to make.
The proactive response would be to create your own roadmap. To start playing around with code, trying to create programs on your own.
You look for another course. You relearn the basics. Your progress halts and you give up.
You add your goal of becoming Bill Gates to the pile of dreams you’ve given up on and visions you’ve deemed unrealistic.
Not because it was impossible. Because it was hard.
Reprogramming The Default
Default human behavior is reactive, not proactive.
We like to take the easy way out. We avoid effort.
Why should you spend the energy on taking the initiative?
Following the tribe was a great way to survive back then, but times have changed.
Success today requires you to spend energy doing what others won’t. It’s the only way to climb to the top.
So, I think it’s time for some rewiring.
How To Be Proactive
Proactivity is a skill that you can hone. The more you practice proactive behaviors, the easier proactivity will become.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Take Back The Reigns
Half the things people complain about are within their control.
People complain about how much they want that summer body while eating their third cheeseburger of the day. “But it’s not my fault,” they say. “It’s in my genes!”
You must understand that you are in control of your actions and that your life is the result of the decisions you made.
Sure, you didn’t choose to be born in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but it was your choice to stay.
You hate your job, but no one forced you into it!
Once you internalize the fact that you are in control of your life and you make the calls, you can start making decisions that will bring you closer to where you want to be.
You get to say, “You know what? I’ve had enough. Today, I will change this.”
Determine What You Want In Life
Everyone has a vague image of what they want their life to look like, but few people know the details.
Here’s a question:
If you don’t know exactly what you want, can you have a plan to obtain it?
Of course not!
To be proactive, you need to know the specifics of what you want.
Only then can you take action and make the decisions that will get you there.
(Need help defining your goals and tracking your progress? Check out the Goal Tracker 2.0.)
Search for Solutions
Problems arise. Things don’t always go your way. It’s just one of those things about life.
A reactive person’s response is to curl into a fetal position and loudly exclaim, “This always happens to me. Why does the world hate me?!”
But as the proactive person you now are, you keep your eyes peeled for solutions.
Yeah, the winds are blowing the wrong way, but you are at the steering wheel and you can sail your boat back to your desired path.
You don’t even give the problems a second thought because you know that you’re a problem-solver type of person.
Usually, the problems you experience are just symptoms of a deeper, bigger issue that you’ve ignored for too long.
When looking for solutions, fix the underlying problem, not just the problem you see.
Break the Chain
The reaction chain looks like this:
But you can change it to look something like this:
When an event occurs, you can impulsively react or you could analyze what just happened and determine the best way to proceed.
The latter will give you better results.
You just found out that your most trusted colleague is plotting your downfall with the IT guy.
You have two choices:
You could tell your boss and have them fired. But you have no evidence so your boss might end up firing you.
You could uncover their plan and create a counterplan. (And maybe update your résumé in case that doesn’t work.)
The moral of the story is to think things through before reacting to situations.
Be Proactive. Be Successful.
Not one has become successful by reacting. Bill Gates, Oprah, and J.K. Rowling actively took control of their lives and made the decisions that lead to success.
Being proactive is a quality of successful people. It’s also a quality you can hone within yourself.
Take the initiative today. Start building habits that improve your life today. Don’t wait for some external force to coerce you.
It’s your life. You are in control.