Proactive in Your Career – If you have read Dr. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” you would know that being proactive is the number one habit he is talking about. Why being proactive is so important in our life and in our career? In this article we will talk about that.
If you spend another 5-6 minutes reading this article, it will save you a ton of heartache and anxiousness because “being proactive” is such a quality that can drastically change your way of being.
In this article, we will first discuss what being proactive means? Then we will see why you should be proactive in your career and life? Finally we will talk about ways to be proactive at whatever you do in your career.
Without much ado, let’s begin.
What does being proactive mean?
Now-a-days people always talk about being proactive. But what does it mean in real sense? First we will give the literal meaning and then we will go in depth and explain what actually being proactive means.
If you break down the word “proactive” you would get “pro” and “active”. “Pro” is a Greek word which means “before” or “sooner.” And “active” means “taking action constantly”. That means people who are taking action constantly before or sooner, they’re proactive.
Now, let’s go and understand in depth what being proactive actually means.
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Being proactive means “an ability to respond to an event before it happened.” Now, if you’re new to this, you would say that how one can respond before the events even happened? Here’s how.
We will describe it with an example.
Let’s say there are two groups of people. Both groups of people love to eat chocolate. Now, the first group, let’s say “A” are reactive group and second group, let’s call them “B” are proactive. Let’s see what happens after 6 months.
People of Group A are reactive and will keep on eating the chocolate. At the end of 6 months, they would see that they have gained significant weight and they wonder – how come? And then realize that – Okay, we ate chocolate every day and that’s why it happened. So it’s time to go to gym and reduce these belly fat.
The second group “B” is proactive. Even if these people love chocolate, they don’t eat it every day. Once in a while they taste a little and then they let their desire of the chocolate go. Moreover, they exercise regularly not for losing weight, but for being fit. After 6 months, they didn’t gain any weight; they also didn’t add any fat to their body. Moreover, after 6 months they look better, fitter and happier.
Now, compare these two groups. What’s the difference between these two groups? Why proactive group has better results than reactive group?
The most important thing which sets them apart is their ability to see the future before it arrives. Proactive people knew that if they keep on eating chocolates every day, gaining weight and fat is just a matter of time. But reactive people couldn’t see any issues with their eating chocolate every day. There is no significant downward pull instantly. Thus they kept on eating chocolates every day and as a result gained weight and became flabby after 6 months.
Your career is also same. If you put off important stuffs all the time, within 6 months to 1 year you will be out of the company. Yes, if you’re among the reactive people, you wouldn’t bother to put off work on every day basis because there’s no issues right then. But if you do it for long enough, you will face tremendous difficulty.
Why you should be proactive in your career and in life?
There are several reasons. Let’s look at them one by one.
Reclaiming your power
Most people give away their power by letting life run in the default mode. The events happen and they react. Thus they don’t feel empowered. Author Jim Rohn said – “What happens to us happens to everybody. It’s not what happens, but what we do about it that makes the whole difference.” Yes, when you see that life is happening to you, you can ponder and reclaim your power by being proactive. Only 10% of the results you got are the creation of life. Other 90% you did to yourself. Reclaim your power. Don’t let your life and career go in the default mode. Take charge of your destiny.
If you’re proactive you would be able to take responsibility of your career and life. If you break the word responsibility, you would see there are two words – one is response and another is ability. If you’re proactive, you would have the ability to respond, not react.
Change your results drastically
If you become proactive, you will not be among those mediocre souls who neither know victory, nor defeat. They are just going through life, not living it. If you become proactive, you will take responsibility of everything in your life. Thus the results you will create will be massive and drastically different than those who never become proactive.
You will become happier
Happiness is the holy grail of living a life and attaining a great career. If you’re not happy, what else is there? Being proactive would make you feel that you’re in control instead of feeling that others are in control. Being in control of yourself will make you happier. If you don’t believe us, try being proactive and see for yourself.
You will only think about what you can control
If you become proactive, you will give up worry completely. You will only think about what you can do about what you can control. Dr. Stephen Covey called this “area of influence” and you will not worry about what you can’t do. Dr. Covey called this “area of concern”. This will significantly reduce the stress level. Your way of thinking would achieve clarity. And you would drastically change your outlook of life.
How to be proactive in your career?
You may wonder why we talked about being proactive in life when it’s all about being proactive in your career! We talked about life because life and career can’t be separated. If you’re proactive in life, you will naturally become proactive in your career. There’s a famous saying “everything affects everything”. Thus if you can cultivate the habit of being proactive in your life, you will be able to magnify the results in your career by multi-fold.
But how would you do that? How would you cultivate the habit of being proactive?
Here are some ways you can use to become proactive.
#1. Start with one thing in your career
If you’re proactive in your life and simply starting out in your career, don’t try to take too much. In the beginning, start with one thing where you want to be proactive. For example, if you’re putting off one type of task on regular basis, promise yourself that you would do it every day first thing in the morning before you do any other task. After few months, if you continue this practice, you will see that it has become your second nature. In recent studies, it’s being said that it takes around 66 days to install a new habit. So, do it minimum for 66 days and then start with another thing that can improve your career.
#2. Stop reacting
The greatest issue of our professional relationship is we become defensive when we’re faced with any criticism. But if you become proactive, you would not become defensive; rather you would try to understand whether there’s really any issue with your work or with a particular part of your work which needs improvement or not. If you find that the critic is right, you will improve or if the critic is wrong, you simply ignore. But it’s a difficult practice because we’ve installed the habit of giving immediate reaction to people when we’re criticized. Thus, the best way to deal with it is to put down everything in a journal. When you’re getting defensive because you’re criticized, write everything down in your journal. If you’re angry and want to say something to the person, tell it to your journal. If you put down your thoughts in the beginning when you’re angry or sad or anxious, you will release your emotion and you will also be able to maintain the professional relationship with the person who criticized you.
#3. Practice focus
Do you know why we are reactive? Because we don’t pay heed to what’s happening around us. We’re not focused. We’re constantly distracted by everything. Being proactive needs concentration and focus. Instead of trying too hard for meditation, do this instead. Decide a time, may be 5 minutes and then just try to notice everything that’s happening around. Your mind will go away and start to think different thoughts. Bring it back, again and again to the present moment. If you can do this for some time, you would see that your concentration power has increased and instead of being reactive to people and events, you are able to decide beforehand what should be done in a given situation.
#4. 90 seconds rule
This is a great rule of thumb for being proactive. This 90 second rule will help you become more proactive. Suppose, you decide to complete your task within a time frame. But things keep coming up. Instead of getting bothered, simply tell yourself that you would just do the task for 90 seconds. And then you will stop. If you’re facing any resistance in doing any task, beginning it should be your ultimate motto. By using 90 seconds rule you would be able to start on any work immediately and then you can keep on going. Now you may think how would you relate this to proactivity? Remember being proactive is all about taking action before something goes out of hand. So, it will jump start you on action. Anything you want to start and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just use this 90 seconds rule and you will be able to start the task immediately.
#5. Understand that you have power to choose
You don’t need to become a victim. You can be a victor. Only thing you need to do is to understand that you have power. Whatever happens to you in your career up until now may not be your fault, but you need to take responsibility of everything in your career now on. How would you do? Simply try this. Take a piece of paper and divide it into two parts. On one side write down – “my area of control” and on the other side write – “not my area”. “My area of control” is all about things that you control in your professional life, for example, your daily work, how you behave, how you develop yourself, how you maintain relationship with your colleagues and peers, how you respond to any crisis period etc. “Not my area” is all about things you don’t have direct control over like angry boss, lazy colleagues, hot weather etc.
Every day keep this paper with you and add in both sides as you feel. Then whenever you see yourself getting bogged down by events, ask yourself “Is it my area?” If it’s not your area, concentrate on the things you can control (“my area of control”) and be happy. Keeping this list and checking every day will help you shape up your attitude and will gradually make you more proactive in your career.
The tips mentioned above are not comprehensive. But if you do them, you will see that you don’t need anything else. Everything else will come under all that are mentioned. Being proactive is a shift of attitude – from being reactive to being responsible. Being proactive also means that you’re realizing that you can choose to act even if things don’t go in your way. That’s the power of being proactive.
To begin working on your attitude, first start with “practice focus”. Because this one thing will help you achieve all other. Simply try it every day for 5-10 minutes and you will be able to realize that you have power, you have choice and you can be proactive in your career.