There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those that wonder what happened. Where do you fall along this spectrum? Needless to say, people who make things happen are those that work their way through the ranks to become the “who is who” in society. They are the decision makers and the game changers. Little can be said about those who watch things happen and without doubt nothing can be said about those who wonder what happened. Those that make things happen are proactive people.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey opines that proactivity is one of the most important qualities of effective people. He sees proactivity as the foundation of all the other six habits and he ranks proactivity as Habit number one.
Proactive people are in control of situations by making things happen rather than waiting to respond after things happen. They don’t react to situations; they handle the situations. People who are proactive find answers to anticipated problems. They are constantly moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other and making things happen as opposed to sitting around and passively observing as others turn the wheel.
The opposite of proactive is reactive. People who are reactive are controlled by situations rather than controlling the situations themselves. They are caught in the ebb and flow of life and each new wave catches them by surprise and they thus struggle to stay afloat. Reactive people cut the picture of a person who is drowning. They are tossed and turned by the tides of life. They see themselves as victims of circumstances. In contrast, a proactive person is in his/her element in the face of such tides. They take life in good stride because nothing comes as a surprise. They are always prepared for any eventuality. What then, you may ask, makes proactive people to be in tune with difficult circumstances? The answer lies in what is referred to as the five P’s.
Proactive people predict – they have developed a sense of foresight and hence are rarely caught by surprise. They have mastered the art of anticipating problems or events and understanding how things work. This makes them to be always on their toes. After predicting a problem, proactive people prevent it from happening. They foresee potential obstacles and put their energy to overcome them before they generate into roadblocks. They never allow themselves to degenerate into a sense of powerlessness; they confront challenges head on before they grow into something insurmountable.
Proactive people plan for the future. Instead of waiting for the ship to come in, they swim out to it. They work hard today to ensure they are successful tomorrow. They don’t make decisions in a vacuum; they understand that every decision has a consequence and is a link chain to the final result. They analyse where they came from, where they are and where they are heading. They participate.
Proactive people take initiative and are resourceful. They are not part of the problem; they are the solution. They appreciate teamwork and understand that they are a piece of the whole and that their actions influence and are influenced by other’s actions. Finally, proactive people perform. They do not procrastinate: they take action NOW. They hold themselves accountable of their performance.
To be proactive, you need to set goals and work towards achieving them, create opportunities, be in control of your life, avoid impulsive decision-making, and be creative. No one is born proactive: you nurture the virtue. And it is never too late too start.
People who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.
Stephen Covey (1932-2012), American author and businessman
Most of the people I know who work out seriously do so because they have such an amazing outlook on life. To be who I want to be, I’m going to work out to be more positive, more active. It’s proactive.
John Krasinki (1979), American actor
I like things to happen. And if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
I believe that everyone chooses how to approach life. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.
John C. Maxwell 1947 American author, speaker and pastor
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics
A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.
To be proactive is to be in control of your life and also anticipating how a situation will turn out. It helps kill procrastination and it gets things done. Proactive people are likely to be successful in life because they go for what they want, they see opportunities even before others see them and this enables them to be ahead of the pack.
Anne Njine, Teacher
Published in May 2015