In Stephen R. Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the first Habit he teaches is “Be Proactive”. There’s a reason for this: it will be much harder to implement the other six habits if you don’t focus on being proactive first. Being proactive means thinking about the future and focusing on the things you can control instead of all those you cannot. It also means taking responsibility. There is a stimulus and there is a response and in between, there is your freedom to choose what your reaction will be.
A proactive mindset starts with realizing that you’re not a product of your circumstances, but of your decisions. One of the most important characteristics of a proactive mindset is focusing on things that are in your control – you can’t control the weather, but you choose if you’ll dress accordingly – and, ultimately, if you’ll be able to enjoy your time outside.
The opposite of being proactive is to be reactive. When you’re reactive, you surrender your control over a situation to someone or something else. If you’re reactive, you can find all sorts of reasons to point at to explain why things don’t go as you would like. Being reactive leaves you feeling helpless–like a victim. It’s as though life is acting upon you without your consent, rather than feeling as though you can choose your adventures and work toward them come what may. As bestselling author Sean Covey put it, “Unlike reactive people who are full of carbonation, proactive people are like water. Shake them up all you want – they stay calm, cool, and in control.”
The proactive approach is to change from the inside out: to be different, and by being different, to effect positive change in what’s out there. Think “I can be more resourceful, I can be more diligent, I can be more creative, I can be more cooperative.” The proactive mindset is often intertwined with the growth mindset. If you have a growth mindset, you don’t give up when you face a challenge, instead you persist; you don’t see failures as a bad thing, but the opportunity to grow; you are inspired by the success of others, instead of envious; your goal is to continuously grow and improve yourself.
Being proactive takes effort. But by maintaining a proactive mindset, you can modify your behaviors and adjust to the circumstances you face. We are responsible for our own lives. Behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. Become a PRO at leading yourself through the resources we have available on our website! Check out other blog posts and take our planner training course.
When have you had to make a choice between a proactive and reactive response? Tell us about it in the comments below!