One of the constructive ways to solve most of our problems in life as human is to learn how to adopt proactive approach instead of reactive approach in problem solving. By proactive approach, I simply means instead of merely reacting to events and things as they happen, you would consciously take control or take charge of your own events and recondition your mind to see things differently.
Proactive approach is one of the Steve Covey’s habit in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. From his definition, he said that “being proactive means taking conscious control over your own life, setting goals and working to achieve them.” Instead of reacting to events of life and waiting for the right opportunities, you just go out and create your own milky-way of events of your choice and opportunities respectively.
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.
The adjective proactive can describe a person who gets things done. If you are proactive, you make things happen, instead of waiting for them to happen to you. So if you are proactive, you are ready before something happens. The opposite is being reactive, or waiting for things to unfold before responding. Proactive people tend to be more relaxed, prepared, and positive due to the precautionary steps that they’ve taken for potential “situations”. They have more control over their future. Being reactive usually forces you take situations as they are and to fix them with minimal time and resources.
Most people think reactively. And reacting to certain events is all well and good. But it becomes a problem when that’s all there is to a person’s life — nothing more than instinctively reacting to stimuli. Reactive people are also affected by their social environment, by the “social weather.” When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them. The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values — carefully thought about, selected, and internalized values.
Proactivity has been written by many authors but with different titles. For example, Anthony Robbins called it using your Personal will power. Brian Tracy states, “Those who don’t set goals for themselves are forever doomed to work to achieve the goals of others.” Denis Waitley juxtaposes winners make it happen vs. losers let it happen. Dr. Wayne Dyer refers to the proactive as no-limit people. Roger Dawson calls them achievers. Barbara Marx Hubbard labels them cocreators. David Allen uses the terms ready for anything and having a mind like water. The exact terms aren’t important. What matters is making the decision to start consciously directing your own life instead of being pushed along by external currents.
Steve Covey points out that there’s a gap between stimulus and response, and within that gap lies the potential for us to choose our response. Four special human endowments give us this power:
- Self-awareness– the understanding that you do have a choice between stimulus and response. If someone insults you, you can choose not to become angry. If you are offered a donut, you can choose not to eat it.
- Conscience– the ability to consult your inner compass to decide what is right for you. You can make decisions based on unchanging principles, regardless of what is socially favored at the moment.
- Creative Imagination– the ability to visualize alternative responses. By using your imagination, you can mentally generate and evaluate different options.
- Independent Will– You have the freedom to choose your own unique response. You aren’t forced to conform to what others expect from you.
Proactive Attitude (PA) is a personality characteristic which has implications for motivation and action. It is a belief in the rich potential of changes that can be made to improve oneself and one’s environment. This includes various facets such as resourcefulness, responsibility, values, and vision. The proactive individual believes in the existence of sufficient resources which can be external or internal. Goods, services, and people are out there and can be influenced to support goal attainment. Intelligence, courage, and strength, for example, reside within and allow goal setting and persistence.
The proactive individual takes responsibility for his or her own growth. A life course is not fully determined by external forces but can be chosen. Neither good nor bad events are mindlessly attributed to external causes. Rather, the proactive individual faces reality and adopts a balanced view of self-blame and other-blame in the case of negative events. However, two kinds of responsibilities have to be distinguished: Responsibility for past events and responsibility for making things happen. The latter is the crucial one here. The proactive individual focuses on solutions for problems, no matter whether the problems have been caused by himself or herself or by others.
The proactive individual is driven by values. Others’ behavior might be determined by their social environment, whereas proactive persons are, in contrast, mindful of their values and choose their path of action accordingly. Although values are influenced by others during the socialization process, people differ in the degree to which their life depends on these values. Once the socially mediated values are internalized they become the leading force to guide the proactive individual’s striving. By the way, values need not necessarily be socially acceptable. Criminals may also have values, and terrorists might also be proactive individuals. The proactive individual has a vision. He or she creates meaning in life by striving for ambitious goals. Again, these need not necessarily be socially desirable goals. Missionaries, politicians, entrepreneurs, teachers, or athletes may have dreams that conflict with those of others, but they have dreams. They have an imagination of what could be, and they set goals in line with their vision. Total Quality Management, for example, is a principle of continuous improvement within companies. The same idea can be transferred to individuals who constantly strive for self-improvement. They accumulate resources, prevent resource depletion, and mobilize forces with a long-term aim in mind. They have a mission, imposed by themselves.
A lack of proactivity can often be traced to a weakness in one of these four human endowments. Maybe you’re spending too much time in a state of low consciousness and never reaching the level of awareness necessary to make proactive life decisions. Perhaps your conscience has become muddled by society conditioning, so you aren’t even sure what you want from life; when something doesn’t feel right to you, you look to others to decide how you should feel about it. Maybe you aren’t taking the time to visualize alternatives. Or perhaps your independent will is being restricted by the pressure to conform to others’ expectations.
It can be argued that on some level, we’re always reacting to events, either external or internal. The difference between proactivity and reactivity can then be viewed in terms of what degree of “mental processing” occurs during the gap between stimulus and response. A proactive person will apply the four human endowments to choose a response (or to choose no response at all). But even more than that, a proactive person will invest the time to make conscious life choices and follow through on them.
Reactive people tend to be out of touch with their core values. Instead of running their lives based on unchanging core principles, they pick up temporary values from others around them. If no special opportunities come their way, they’ll stay at the same job year after year as long as it’s semi-satisfying. If most of their friends exercise, they probably will too; otherwise, they probably won’t. They go with the flow of the people and circumstances that surround them, but they don’t direct the flow. Their lives are largely out of their direct conscious control; they tend to only exert their human endowments when they absolutely must, such as if they get laid off unexpectedly (and even then it’s often to a minimal degree). But when things are pretty good, life is mostly on autopilot.
Proactive people, on the other hand, are aware of their core values. They consciously make key decisions based on those values. They create their own opportunities and direct the flow of their own lives. Even when things are pretty good, they’re still making conscious choices. Sometimes that means maintaining the status quo, while other times it means changing directions. Sometimes their values will align well with what’s socially popular; other times they won’t. Proactive people will take actions that often seem mysterious to reactive people. They may suddenly quit their job to start a new business, even though everything seemed to be going well for them. They’ll often start new projects or activities “out of the blue” when it seems like there’s no externally motivated reason to do so. A proactive person will still pay attention to external events, but they’ll pilot themselves to their desired destination regardless of those events.
If a reactive person were to captain a ship, the ship would flow with the currents. This person would be preoccupied with studying the currents, trying to predict where the ship will end up as a function of the currents. If the currents are good, this person is happy. If the currents are poor, this person feels stressed. On occasion this person might attempt to set a destination, and if the currents are good, the ship will arrive. But if the currents are poor, this person will bemoan them and give up the destination for an easier one.
If a proactive person were to captain a ship, however, the ship would go wherever the captain wanted it to go. This captain would still note the currents, but they’d merely be used for navigational purposes. Sometimes the ship would flow with the currents; other times it would steam against them. It matters little whether the currents are good or not; this captain will reach the intended destination regardless of the currents. The currents can only control the time of arrival and the exact path from starting point to final destination. But the currents have no power to dictate the final destination; that is entirely the captain’s choice.
Do you think that anything that happens “out there” will determine how successful you’ll be in your endeavors? Not if you’re proactive. If you’re proactive, external events can only affect your time of arrival and the exact path you take to your goal. But they cannot dictate your goal for you. Proactive people still get knocked around by the currents at times, but they’ll just keep readjusting their course to retarget their goals, goals which are ultimately attainable by their own efforts.
Of course everyone has a mixture of both proactivity and reactivity. Pure examples of the two extremes are rare. You may find that you’re extremely proactive in one area, while letting other parts of your life slip into unconscious autopilot. So take the time to use your human endowments of self-awareness, conscience, creative imagination, and independent will to shine a light on those neglected areas of your life and consciously choose to get things moving. If you don’t like where the currents are taking you, then change course. Don’t wait for an opportunity to arrive; engineer your own. The reactive people in your life will often throw a fit when you do this, so let them, and exercise your independent will anyway. Even when everyone around you seems to be reactive, you can still be proactive. Initially that will probably feel like swimming against the currents, but if the currents of your life are leading in the wrong direction anyway, that’s a good thing.
7 Ways to Adopt a Proactive Mindset in Problems Solving
- Focus more on the future
- Take personal responsibility for your success
- Think big picture
- Focus on what you can control
- Think through scenarios
- Make things happen
Being proactive takes time, since you have to consider your options, weigh alternatives and make your own decisions in order to achieve your goals. A reactive behavior is influenced by the environment and outside forces. Being proactive means anticipating problems, seeking new solutions and doing your best. Being reactive, on the contrary, means solving problems when they turn up, not waiting for perfect conditions or changes that you think would be favorable before you could do something and doing the minimum effort.
Until Next Time, Live Exceptionally!!