HABIT ONE – BE PROACTIVE
You won’t find it in an ordinary dictionary, but the word is common now in management
Proactivity means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.
If we think our lives are a function of our conditions, it is because we have, by conscious
decision or by default, chosen to empower those things to have control over us – we have let
ourselves become reactive. Reactive people are often affected by the weather, proactive
people carry their own weather with them.
Being proactive means recognizing our responsibility to make things happen. The people who
end up with the good jobs are those who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary,
consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.
I worked with a group of people in the home- improvement industry. A heavy recession was
taking a toll on their business, and they were discouraged as we began the semin2r. The first
day, we talked about “What’s happening to us?” The basic answer was that they were laying
off their friends just to survive. The group finished their first day even more discouraged.
The second day, we talked about “What’s going to happen in the future?” They concluded
things were going to get worse before they improved. They were more depressed than ever.
On the third day, we focused on the proactive question, “What is our response?” In the
morning, we brainstormed practical ways of managing better and cutting costs; in the
afternoon, we talked about increasing market share. By concentrating on a few do-able things,
everyone was able to wrap up the meeting with a new spirit of excitement and hope, eager to
get back to work. We all had faced reality, and discovered we had the power to choose a
You can find a clue to whether you now have the proactive habit by looking at how you speak.
Do you find yourself using these expressions?
“That’s the way I am.” There’s nothing I can do about it.
“He makes me so mad!” My emotional life is outside my control.
“I have to do it.” I’m not free to choose my own actions.
For all of us, there are many things that concern us that we can’t do anything about, for now.
But there are also things we can do. Proactive people work on their circle of influence – the
people and things they can reach – and spend less energy on their much wider circle of
concern. By keeping their focus on their circle of influence, they actually extend its area.
As you become more proactive, you will make mistakes. While we choose our actions freely,
we cannot choose their consequences – which are governed by natural law, out in our circle of
concern. The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct it, and
learn from it. To delay, to deny the mistake, is to miss its lesson. “Success,” said IBM founder T.J.
Watson Sr., “is on the far side of failure.”
Try this exercise for 30 days:
1) Work only in your smaller circle of influence;
2) Make small commitments to yourself and others, and keep them;
3) Be a light, not a judge; be a model, not a critic; be the solution, not the problem.
If you stall to think some important problem in your life is “out there” somewhere, stop
yourself. That thought is the problem.