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How Proactive Thinking Can Change Your Life  

Developing Proactive Behavior

In Steve Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Be Proactive” is habit #1. Both proactive thinking and proactive behavior means taking conscious control over your life, taking your dreams and turning them into goals and working to achieve them.

Instead of reacting to events and waiting for opportunities, you go out and create your own events and opportunities.

Proactive thinking and proactive behavior means that instead of merely reacting to events as they happen, you consciously choose the events you are going to participate in.

Most people think reactively and reacting to certain events is all well and good. But it becomes a problem when that’s all there is to a person’s life — nothing more than instinctively reacting to stimuli.

According to Covey there are four human endowments that allows us to choose our response and enable proactive thinking:

  1. Self-awareness – the understanding that you do have a choice between stimulus and response. If someone insults you, you can choose not to become angry. If you are offered a donut, you can choose not to eat it.
  2. Conscience – the ability to consult your inner compass to decide what is right for you. You can make decisions based on unchanging principles, regardless of what is socially favored at the moment.
  3. Creative Imagination – the ability to visualize alternative responses. By using your imagination, you can mentally generate and evaluate different options.
  4. Independent Will – You have the freedom to choose your own unique response. You aren’t forced to conform to what others expect from you.

A lack of proactivity can often be traced to a weakness in one of these four human endowments.

Reactive people tend to be out of touch with their core values. Instead of running their lives based on unchanging core principles, they pick up temporary values from others around them. If no special opportunities come their way, they’ll stay doing the same thing year after year as long as it’s semi-satisfying.

This “thing” can be anything from a bad job to a toxic relationship, bad or none existing nutrition and exercise habits that keep you fat, unhealthy, and feeling bad about yourself. It can be spending habits that keep you in debt for a lifetime. Or even the mere thought that you can’t achieve that which you want.

If on the other hand you are proactive then you would be aware of your core values- the things that truly matter and are important in your life. Then you consciously make key decisions based on those values. You create your own opportunities and direct the flow of your own life.

Some examples of reactive and [proactive] thinking:

  • I don’t have time to exercise. [How can I make time to exercise?]
  • How much money can I expect to make if I do X? [How much money do I want to make, and what will I do to earn it?]
  • I’ll try it and see what happens. [I'll do it.]
  • Nothing really inspires me. [What would I tackle if I knew I couldn't fail?]
  • What is the meaning of life? [What is the meaning I wish to give to my life?]
  • How can I build wealth if I only make $X and have so much debt? [This is the wealth I want to have and here is what I need to do to achieve that.]

Do you think that anything that happens “out there” will determine how successful you’ll be in your endeavors? Not if you’re a proactive thinking person. If you’re proactive, external events can only affect how long it takes and the exact path you take to your goal. But they cannot dictate your goal for you.

Proactive thinking people still get knocked around by the currents at times, but they’ll just keep readjusting their course to retarget their goals, goals which are ultimately attainable by their own efforts.

The habit of proactivity can be applied to anything in your life. Building wealth then becomes a matter of choice and not a consequence of your conditions. If you choose proactive thinking and put into action proactive behavior life can take on a whole new meaning.

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