Updated June 9, 2023
Proactive in Your Career
If you break down the word “proactive,” you would get “pro” and “active.” “Pro” is a Greek word that means “before” or “sooner.” And “active” means “taking action constantly.” That means people taking action constantly before or sooner are proactive.
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. Why is being proactive so important in our lives and our careers?
Nowadays, people always talk about being proactive. But what does it mean in the real sense?
Being proactive means the “ability to respond to an event before it happened.”
Why should you be proactive in your career and 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 by default. 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 real difference.” 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 get are the creation of life. The other 90% you did 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 have the ability to respond, not react. If you’re proactive, you can take responsibility for your career and life. If you break the word responsibility, you will see there are two words – one is responsible, and another is ability.
Change your results drastically
If you become proactive, you will not be among the mediocre souls. They are just going through life, not living it. If you become proactive, you will take responsibility for everything in your life. Thus the results you will create will be massive and drastically different from those who never become proactive.
You will become happier
Happiness is the holy grail of living 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.
You will only think about what you can control
If you become proactive, you will give up worrying completely. You will only think about what you can control. Dr. Stephen Covey called this an “area of influence.” You will not worry about what you can’t do. Dr. Covey called this an “area of concern.” This will significantly reduce the stress level. Your way of thinking would achieve clarity. And you would drastically change your outlook on life.
How to be proactive in your career?
There’s a famous saying, “Everything Affects Everything.” If you’re proactive in life, you will naturally become proactive in your career. Thus if you can cultivate the habit of being proactive in your life, you will be able to magnify the results in your career.
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 your career, don’t try to take too much. Initially, start with one thing where you want to be proactive. For example, if you’re putting off one type of task regularly, promise yourself that you will do it every day first thing in the morning before you do any other task. After a few months, if you continue this practice, you will see that it has become permanent in your nature.
#2. Stop reacting
The greatest issue of our professional relationships is that we become defensive when we face criticism. But if you become proactive, you will not become defensive; you will try to understand whether there’s any issue with your work or if a particular part of your work needs improvement. If you find that the critic is right, you will improve; if the critic is wrong, you simply ignore it. But it’s a difficult practice because we’ve installed the habit of reacting immediately to criticisms. Thus, the best way to deal with it is to put down everything in a journal.
When you’re getting defensive and unable to gauge constructive criticism, write everything down in your journal. Suppose you put down your thoughts at the beginning when you’re angry or sad, or anxious. In that case, you will release your emotions, and you will also be able to maintain a 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, maybe 5 minutes, and then try to notice everything happening around you. If you can do this for some time despite the distractions created by your subconscious, you will see that your concentration power has increased. Instead of being reactive to people and events, you can decide beforehand what solutions could be useful for the situation.
#4. 90-second rule
The 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, tell yourself you will do the job for 90 seconds. And then you will stop. By using 90 seconds rule, you can 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 the move. Anything you want to start and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just use this 90 seconds rule, and you can begin the task immediately.
#5. Power to Choose
You don’t need to become a victim. You can be a victor. The 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 must take responsibility for everything in your career. How would you do that? 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, write – “not my area.”
“My area of control” is all about things you can control in your professional life, for example, your daily work, how you behave, how you develop yourself, how you maintain coworker relationships 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 an angry boss, lazy colleagues, hot weather, etc.
Keep this paper with you daily and add 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 what you can control (“my area of control”) and be happy. Keeping this list will help shape your attitude and 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. Being proactive is a shift of attitude – from being reactive to being responsible. Being proactive also means realizing that you can choose to act even if things don’t go your way. That’s the power of being proactive.
To begin working on your attitude, start with “practice focus.” Because this one thing will help you achieve all others, simply try it every day for 5-10 minutes, and you will realize that you have power, a choice, and can be proactive in your career.