What being proactive means? Why do all these successful people say to everyone else that this is the key? Why Stephen Covey – the author of bestsellers about productivity – pointed to proactivity as the first habit from 7 needed to become effective?
Because of the simple truth about the world: nothing is given to you. You need to reach for it. And keep it by choice.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. – Henry David Thoreau
Even your partner, best friends, or your parents, aren’t here for granted. It’s not enough to find love: you need to fight for it, every day and forever. Only that way you can build a happy marriage, enjoy long-lasting friendship, and know your parents as a people, not just as these two folks who gave you the opportunity to live.
If you want to grow at your work and not just make money but also feel successful, you can’t just sit and wait for a miracle to happen. You need to stand up and move: while having a strategy and goal in your mind.
👉 Read more about career goals examples
What does proactivity mean?
Before you can work on your proactive mindset, you need to truly understand what does it mean. You need to feel it and claim it.
That is why I would like you to think about freedom first. There are people who think that freedom can be given and taken but according to Sartre, Frankl and humble me: that’s not true.
Freedom is you, and you are freedom. Freedom is what makes us human beings. And that is why Sartre would say that life has no particular sense. You might think now that this extensional philosophy is sad, but think again.
Your life has no meaning, so you have absolute freedom. You can make sense of it. You can choose your path and choose what’s most important for you. No one and nothing can do this for you.
Why this extremely philosophical intro? Because that is the fundamental truth you need to understand if you really want to be proactive.
Absolute freedom means that your life is your choice. Now you might think: how is that possible if you can’t control anything around you? If you can’t control your friends, family, weather (even there are people that believe that Putin does)?
But your life is about you, and your actions and reactions are what define who you are.
Proactivity comes from freedom. It is understanding that you’re in charge and making use of it. A proactive person checks the weather and takes the umbrella if it’s going to rain. Or no, if it’s a lover of dancing during the storm. Reactive people would just become grumpy, yell and swear.
Other examples of proactive mindset:
- taking in bag foot corn plaster when wearing new shoes for the first time
- eating healthy to prevent obesity and other diseases
- checking in to the doctor regularly to live long
- saying “I love you” every day to make sure they know
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent – Eleonora Roosvelt
Reactive people will adjust their current mood to what happened to them. Did someone treat them badly? They will feel bad. A proactive person will focus, think and find a way to improve the situation. Reactive people focus just on feelings and skip the thinking phase. I could actually call it a small hysteria every time when something bad happens.
What is also important, proactive people take all the responsibility (response-ability btw). They act consciously, and they know when their action was the reason for the problem or barrier to recovery.
That is why you might have heard about people who stayed strong even in incredibly hard times. They chose to focus on looking for chances and positive things around them. They focus on their circle of influence (which actually can grow over time). Having a proactive mindset means knowing where you are, where do you want to go and how you can do it in the current situation.
Decide or someone else will make the decision for you.
Are you a proactive or reactive person?
And this is the moment when you can focus on yourself and think for a minute. Are you in control of your life? What is your approach? Let’s check!
- You’re planning your doctor appointment “for the future” because now you’re fine.
- When someone tells you something unpleasant, you’re feeling bad for a long time later.
- When you finish your work earlier, you’re just enjoying the free time and not admitting that you’re done.
- You feel that your best friend is getting far from you, but you don’t take any action.
- You always agree on more tasks than you’re able to do in reality. And you don’t finish all of them.
If you answer YES to these questions… you have some work to do! Check how to be proactive!
How to be proactive in personal life
There are many roles you take in your life. Some of them are easy, some of them are tough. Some are very rare, some similar to all of us. We will take a look at the 3 pillars most of us see as important ones. As you see, I don’t speak about the areas of your life, like you don’t have any control. It’s not like they just are. You are the first-plan protagonist in your show. So act.
As a human being
At this moment you are probably fine (I hope you are). You rarely think about all possible sickness, you just live. But just look around for a moment. What do you see? People are getting sick. Sometimes it’s “just” flue, but sometimes it’s something that will definitely cost you years from life.
You can act before anything happens. If you just decide to work on it proactively. That way will give you control, even one day you’ll find out that something bad is starting to happen.
But that’s not everything. Being a human is not just staying alive and healthy as long as possible. It’s fighting for your dreams, becoming a better person every day, and feeling good with others.
Learn something new, smile at strangers, help these people who seek it. Open your eyes, notice what’s around you, and work on the life you want to live.
As a lover
Maybe you believe that love is given and can’t be taken. I deny it. First moments of love may be charming, easy, and they just are. But the love we dream about – love for the lifetime – requires a lot of effort. Like Stephen Covey once said: love is a verb. Reactive people choose to see it as a feeling. Powerful, ha?
I truly believe that proactive people are those who stay together until the end. A proactive approach is key to a great relationship. Instead of coming back to your partner every day, yell about the work, watch a movie together and going to sleep, try something new.
Remind yourself how you used to try when you wanted to get your boo’s heart. This is how things should look like. This is how you work on keeping your favorite person around.
Try every single day. Take action, make surprises, say good things, find new things to do together, or if you both love routine… add a little sugar to it! Notice your lover, see all the changes, get to know each other again and again. Be there for each other actively. Love each other proactively.
And don’t thank me later 😉 You’re a proactive person!
As a friend
If there’s anything so close to love, that’s friendship. There will always be discussions about what was first and what’s more important. Let’s agree then that one can’t exist without another.
The proactive person fights for the friends as for the partner. Your people won’t be around if they don’t feel your attention. Even they love you, and they want to be with you, they have their limits too.
It may be funny, but even Sims in the game we all know could leave you if you didn’t remember about them. Answering phone calls is not enough. This is the reaction.
Be proactive in this area too. Call them, arrange meetings, ask about their life even they seem fine. Write down dates important to them, celebrate together. Encourage them to grow, give an arm to cry when they need it, and find new ways of spending time together. Teach them how to be proactive too, and enjoy life with those you adore.
Love or friendship; we are nothing without the right people by our side.
How to keep a proactive mindset at work
As in general, you need to start somewhere when it comes to your career. Some people jump into their own business right after school, others prefer to start slow, and they choose to work for other companies. There are many ways. Doesn’t matter where you are at this moment in your career: having a proactive approach will pay off eventually.
As a specialist
If you think that there is no way to be proactive as a specialist, you definitely have still something to learn. No matter if you’re already a pro in your area, or you’re actually a junior with a strong will to become a specialist soon.
With a proactive mindset, you will achieve all your goals much faster, and you will be satisfied sooner. How to act when you actually depend on your supervisor? It’s easier than you think.
Let’s start with the basics. When you’re at work, no matter if it’s at the office or remote, be present. Focus on your tasks with your heart and treat them seriously, even these little ones. Probably eventually you’ll find something you’re not so sure about. A reactive person would do it just to have it done, but not proactive people. Not you.
If you have some doubts, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re a beginner and questions are just coming and coming like an avalanche, write them all down and find the best moment to talk to your supervisor. If you feel like there’s an area you need to improve on, go to people you find as good at it. Ask them for sources, for advice. Take what you need to succeed: in this case knowledge.
Try our timeboxing method with TimeCamp application for free to manage all the work you need to do and achieve your goals faster. When you’re done, don’t wait. Don’t pretend that you’re working. Just tell your manager that you’re ready for the next portion of tasks. If there’s nothing left for this week, ask for the opportunity to learn. Maybe your company can arrange an online course for you?
Analyze your previous week and focus on improving the results. Time tracking (with TimeCamp for example) will help you to notice where you can improve and how do you spend your time. Decide that you won’t sit on Facebook so much. Instead, you’ll be acting even more. And you will be able to show it to your supervisor with the reports from the app.
But that’s not all. There is a lot more potential in you, so use it. Go for events, show your interest, be everywhere where something happens.
And when you’re going for your goals with this proactive mindset, never forget about other areas of your life. Proactive people are not afraid of others. They don’t need to destroy co-workers to win because they are confident in themselves. So, when you see that your colleagues are struggling with something… help them!
Being proactive is even better when you also use it to activate people around you.
As a manager
Being a manager is probably not the final stage in your career, isn’t it? If you’re already here, you probably crave something more. Proactive people don’t stop, they don’t settle. They never stop trying to get more from life and from a job. So, let’s go!
I believe that you’re here because you deserve it. If you do, probably you’re better at something than other people, or you already act like a proactive person. You take control of your career, you show your potential to others. But there is still so much you can do.
Being a proactive manager is not all about resolving your team’s problems, and pushing them to achieve your goals. It’s also showing them your personality and being the best possible example. A proactive supervisor is never bossing because that’s not the way. You need to lead. That is your responsibility here.
Go to work with a smile on your face, welcome your team, and show them how to do the job right! Encourage them to do more, to want more. Show them that all the effort is worth it, that you were once where they are. Let them speak their voice, show you their ideas and be the one who inspires them.
Thanks to your amazing team, soon you will meet your goals. And people up there will notice. Trust me.
As a freelancer
Are you this type of person that prefers to work on your terms? If you prefer to run your own business or just stay freelance forever, that’s great! And you also have a huge area to show your proactivity.
No matter what kind of services you have to offer, you need customers. And customers won’t just come to you, even you’re fantastic in your field. Forget about setting up a website, turning on Google Ads, and waiting for the miracle. Focus on your goal to become the best seriously.
Find your potential customers. Think about who are they and where you can meet them. Maybe there are some events? Maybe clubs? It can also be a huge forum, where they chat about things that matter to them. These are all the places you want to be as a new you!
But there’s more, of course. If you have great customers already, think about them. Ask them what do they like the most about cooperation with you and if there’s something you could improve. Check if they have someone else, they can recommend you to. If they stop working with you, don’t leave it like this. Ask why.
Meet other people working in your field. Get to know them. Understand how they work, notice their advantages and flows. Learn from them, and teach them. Become the competitor they will recommend to their customers when they can’t take a project.
Go actively for your success, and stay faithful to your values like Stephen Covey recommends. Soon you will feel pure happiness.
Exercises to become a proactive person
All this theory is great, but it cannot be enough, especially at the beginning. That’s why I am proposing to you a few exercises inspired by these that Stephen Covey included in his book. Try them out and see how your proactive mind is waking up.
- Listen to your language during the day. How often do you say “oh, if I only”, “I can’t”, or “I have to”? Try to write it down. The next day promise to yourself that you will use at least half less. The day after, try even more.
- Think about a frustrating problem you’ve got right now in your life. It can be something related to your work or no. Is this something that depends on you? Is this under your full control, partly or not really? Define the first step you can make to solve it… and make it!
- Find the situation that can happen to you soon. Think now about what behavior will be proactive and which one will be reactive. Promise yourself that you will act as a proactive version of yourself.
- Track and analyze what you’re doing on your computer during the day. Proactive people know what they are doing because it helps them to get control of their life. When you see how much time you spend on reactive activities (like Facebook, videos you don’t even like, tons of memes), you will be surprised. Change it.
- Make an agreement with yourself. Decide now that every day you will be fighting for your freedom. You will not say “it’s impossible” and “it doesn’t depend on me”. You will analyze the situation, think about possible solutions, find what you can do, and act. When you need to cry, cry but later stand up and move.
- Try to dance in the rain once, instead of running away like others. Sometimes we see something as terrible just because other people see it that way.
Tools to help you become proactive
- TimeCamp is an example of a perfect time tracking application. Simple but complex at the same time. How can it help you? Because data is everything! Being proactive means knowing where you are and when you want to go. Our software is the one that shows you where you are. Knowing how much time do you spend on every task and other activities on your computer will make you the master of estimation and validation. Very proactive skills, don’t you agree? And all this completely for free. Forever.
- Productive App: a free-to-use mobile app that helps you build positive habits and fight these bad ones. You can set your personal goals and just watch yourself getting a better version of yourself! You will also definitely love customization and insightful statistics.
- Calendar: it was always one of the most important tools in everyday life and at work. Knowing when you have meetings helps you in planning. You can take the initiative when you know your plans. You can also track and build positive habits, simply adding the information to the day you’ve done what you wanted.
- Sport band: everyone thinks about the calendar, but what about sport band? This is actually an excellent idea to track your health habits. How much do you sit during the day? Have you walked enough steps already? How is your stress level? You can do almost everything you’ve imagined, but just if you’re healthy. Sport band will help you to stay proactive in this area as well.
Proactivity is a very intriguing topic. People have written dozens of books, created videos, and courses about it. Every day someone wakes up somewhere with a strong belief that this is a day to start acting.
But thinking, writing, or reading about something even for hundreds of years won’t make a change.
So don’t think about your possibilities, don’t dream about you being a proactive person and winning your life.
Go and get it. Now.