Proactive Living – Developing a Proactive Mindset

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You know that saying, “when life gives you lemons; make lemonade?” The lemons represent a difficulty or sourness in our lives and the lemonade represents us making something good out of it. Of course, this applies to situations that occurred unexpectedly and beyond our control. There are many situations in our lives, however, that we can control to avoid getting handed those lemons in the first place. Being proactive means that you are thinking about your future. Whether it be by preparing your lunch for tomorrow to save you time or by creating a business plan because you want to start your own business one day. Living a proactive life is about creating your own outcomes rather than waiting for life to give you just about anything and then reacting to it. In short, when we focus on the things we can control and plan ahead; thinking about the future, we accomplish more. This leads to increased satisfaction in our work and our lives in general. It can be difficult learning to shift from a reactive approach to life to a proactive one though. So, to help you work toward a more proactive lifestyle, these are a few things we can do on a daily basis to reach those goals. Taking them one step at a time helps us to gradually make that leap so we don’t get handed those sour lemons that can be avoided.

Develop a vision for your life

The foundation of any successful change of habit is to figure out what you want to achieve and then envision how you are going to make it happen. In our case, we are going to try to become proactive about things in life as opposed to being reactive to things that happen to us. When you create your own vision of what you want your future to look like, you can start at any point in life and we can change our vision on the fly. We have to take the reigns when it comes to developing our own lives and deciding the path we take on that journey. We all will likely take different approaches to develop this vision but that’s ok! This vision should be specific to yourself and just as unique as you are as an individual too. Some people like to make vision or dream boards with clippings of the things they desire in their future. When we look at them each day, they remind us of why we should make better use of our time. For others, just a simple calendar and to-do list is sufficient. Whichever approach you take, having a vision outlined helps us focus on the things we can control and shows us just how efficient we are in meeting our goals. Nothing is really set in stone and circumstances in life change so your vision should adapt over time as life shifts. The most important thing is to create a plan with a goal and to update it when needed so that we do not fall back into a reactive mindset.

Do some introspection to better understand your personality and motivations

No one knows you better than yourself. Introspection is the process of examining and assessing your own feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It usually involves asking ourselves the “Why” questions but we have to be careful with this as we may start to dwell on our problems instead of using this tactic as a strategy to improve our lives. To start this self-assessment, some might prefer to meditate and some like to journal. In meditation, things happen more in the mind; reviewing and analyzing your thoughts. Journaling, on the other hand, is a great way to reflect on oneself on paper. With either approach, the goal is to improve our self-awareness and our internal communication. Anyone can start journaling by simply writing down their feelings of achievements, moments they are grateful for, and things they want to be better at. With journaling, we can conveniently look back at our honest and unbiased feelings and aspirations for life. Whenever we feel lost, we can review these journal entries to find reasons why we are choosing to live the way we are. Slowly over time, you’ll note things that you are proud of and likely a few things that might not have worked out the way you had wanted them to. For the things you want to change, spend a little time thinking about how you could take a proactive approach to the situation that occurred as opposed to the reactive approach you took previously. This will help you develop new habits around things that haven’t worked out the way you wanted them to in the past.

Work on developing the skills you need to thrive in your life

Now that you have an idea of what goals you want to achieve in life, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to achieve them, specifically. Do you have the skills needed? Are there skills you could improve to make achieving your goals easier? These skills could be soft or technical and anyone can work toward improving them. One of the many gifts that life has given us is the choice to do whatever we want with it. Whatever career goals you have, you can achieve them by learning and practicing new skills to work toward those goals. Communication, organization, assertiveness, handling criticism, and even empathy are all skills that we develop as we age. In this life, we all need each other. You may need someone for support and someone may need you for support. We need to be able to recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others, not just ourselves. In many of our professions, we need to show emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence helps us improve our relationships with the people we interact with in life. We not only need the technical skills we learn in school to thrive but we also need to learn and improve our softer skills to get where we want to go.

Understand risks so you take directed, calculated risks rather than chaotic ones

Making mistakes and taking risks are all part of life but what is most important is learning from them. Before taking risks it’s smart to assess the potential outcomes before jumping with both feet. You can use the facts of a situation and your nearest similar experience to identify the pros and cons of the decision you are trying to make. When we teach children to embrace mistakes, we tell them to try other ways and not give up. Choosing not to do the same things to make the same errors is a simple example of a calculated risk. Assessing pros and cons is also a simple example of avoiding chaotic risk-taking. When we want to achieve new goals, we should try to search for those who are in positions we aspire to be in. Family members? Celebrities? Innovators? The internet is a wonderful tool that helps us form a connection to these people we look up to. So, if you have a role model who has met a similar goal, you can learn how they achieved their success; researching any content they are featured in or might provide to their followers. The key takeaway from understanding risks is to not allow your feelings of fear to make you overestimate those risks. As well as knowing and accepting that you will make mistakes over time and learning from them when you do make them.

Build a network of mutually supportive friends and professional connections

One thing you will learn from young professionals is that you need supportive friends and professional connections. Develop your communication skills and know that your interests can help you form relationships. Similar interests or backgrounds can help you form stronger connections with the people around you. Others will understand the things you go through and can even support you in achieving your goals, given the chance. Perfect examples are ants and bees. Both are hardworking, understand there is strength in numbers, and because of that; build strong colonies. Start by looking at your friends, family, schoolmates, and coworkers. If you would like to form new connections, you can join Facebook groups that center around common skills or interests. LinkedIn is also a good place to find and form connections with industry professionals to help further your career. The city you live in may have also developed groups for business owners or have registries for activities and support groups you could become a part of. Building your network of connections can help you reach your goals, provide you with support through hard times, and boost your self-worth or mood even.

Creating a proactive mindset isn’t going to happen overnight. However, if we make it our mission to change or do one small thing each day to work towards this goal, in just a few weeks you’ll notice a big change. Your outlook, perspective, and attitude will likely shift and you’ll notice you’ve grown quite a bit since reading this article.

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – Socrates