P is for Being Proactive

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Looking back, can you think of a situation when you were proactive? You may have taken the initiative to find a job, build a relationship, lead a project, tackle a challenge, solve a problem or whatever.

What did you do right then? You may have said to yourself, for example: “I can make things happen, rather than wait for things to happen.” How did you translate your wishes into action?

Sports teams are sometimes proactive. One soccer manager, for example, encouraged his team to go out onto the field and take control of the game. Sounds obvious, but the hard part was translating this it action.

The players began with a positive attitude. They started on the front foot, kept winning the ball and and implemented the attacking strategy. They then continued to dominate the play.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you chose to be proactive. 

Describe the specific things you did then to be proactive. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

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People who are proactive have an internal locus of control. They believe they can play a large part in shaping their futures. They are positive yet realistic.

Such a person focuses on what they can control in life, rather than worries about what they can’t control. They say things like:

“I can take responsibility … I can make things happen … I can recover from setbacks.”

People with an external locus of control believe that things happen to them. They often feel that their happiness depends on external events and how the world treats them

Proactive people constantly scan situations to see what is happening and what they want to make happen. Such people often focus on the following themes.

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The Picture Of Success

Proactive people constantly think about possibilities in their personal or professional lives. They then translate these ideas into a clear picture of success.

Peak performers see the destination quickly. When entering the situation in which they excel, they quickly see the potential picture of success. They go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’.

The architect walks onto a site and visualises the finished house. The footballer sees the defence-splitting pass that will create a goal. The counsellor greets the troubled child and knows how they want the child to be feeling after their conversation.

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You will do this naturally in certain activities. It is also possible to use such strategic intuition in other areas of life. You can ask the following questions when setting a goal, tackling a challenge or doing a project.

What is my goal? What are the real results I want to achieve? What are the actual words I would like to hear the various stakeholders saying? What is the picture of success?

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The Potential Strategies

Proactive people continually focus on the potential strategies for achieving their goal. They then rehearse these strategies in their heads. Such a person may keep asking:

What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? How can I implement these strategies successfully? How can I get some early successes?

Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company, found that peak performing individuals and teams develop a memory of the future. They constantly envisage what might happen in their chosen field. This means they are several steps ahead of other people when these situations occur.

You will, of course, do this in your own way. It may well be that you also focus on the next theme.

The Potential Challenges

Proactive people continually scan situations for potential problems. They scan things close to them and also things on the horizon.

Alive and alert, they have personal radar in their chosen field. They seem able to envisage what will happen before it happens. Such a person keeps asking the following questions.

What are the potential difficulties I will face? What can I do to prevent some of these difficulties happening? What can I do if they do happen? How can I stay calm and find creative solutions to the challenges? 

The Practical Action Plan

Proactive people have elements of OCD in their chosen field. Such people live by lists. They often get a kick from crossing off items from these lists.

Starting from the outcomes to achieve, they clarify the key strategies they can follow to achieve these aims. Translating these into specific action plans and lists, they then focus on the next step.

The Physical Steps To Take

Proactive people do something to get a quick success. This often means doing something physical, even if this is simply sending an email to get things moving.

People who want to recover after a setback, for example, often do something physical to retake charge of their lives. They may start exercising, eat healthier food, walk to work, begin cycling, lose weight or whatever.

They change the physical things to change the psychological things. This gives them more strength to tackle the particular challenge.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Is there anything you would like to do to be proactive? You may want to encourage another person, take more charge of your health, get a health check, get more satisfying work, start a specific project, tackle a particular challenge or whatever.

How can you be proactive and start the ball rolling? How can you get a quick success? How can you then maintain the momentum?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation now or in the future when you may want to be proactive.

Describe the specific things you can do to be proactive.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of being proactive in this situation.

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