Many years ago, Stephen Covey popularized the concept of proactivity in his bestselling book—

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People— and to this day, learning how to be proactive at work continues to be one of the fundamental steps towards creating a life you love.

When learning how to be proactive, it is helpful to understand what it means to be reactive versus proactive. All of us are reactive and proactive at various times in our lives, and developing self-awareness around the difference between the two will help you to be more proactive, not only at work but in life as well.

When you are in a reactive frame of mind, you feel like life is happening to you and you’re just reacting to what comes your way.  Rather than taking action to initiate change, you blame external circumstances for why things are the way they are.

When you are in a proactive frame of mind, you can choose your response to any situation and take steps towards creating change.

When you know how to be proactive, you understand that every single moment presents you with a choice. Rather than believing that your external circumstances or your conditioning dictate your life, you acknowledge the factors they play while at the same time understanding that you can choose your emotions and your actions. Once you learn how to be proactive at work, you can steer clear of negativity and annoyance at the way things are, and pursue the actions needed to make a change.

When you’re reactive, you worry about things you can’t control.

When you know how to be proactive, you realize when it’s time to take a break and focus your energy on what you can influence at the moment.

As we talk about how to be proactive at work, it is important to acknowledge that privilege and oppression are real. Each of us has had more or less access to opportunities and resources based on external factors. Likewise, we will each encounter life-changing challenges that shape our conditioning and responses.

Learning how to be proactive at work entails learning to dance between accepting the fact that external circumstances play a significant role in our lives and identifying ways that we can create change.

Training yourself to be proactive will help you take strategic action towards creating change, for yourself, your workplace, your community, and your life.

Knowing how to be proactive is a skill you can learn. We all occasionally fall into a reactive mindset. The trick is to notice your reactivity and, without judgment, shift toward proactivity. This simple mindset shift is a choice you can make over and over again.

Pay close attention to the language you use when speaking to yourself and with others.

The following are several examples of reactive versus proactive responses:

  • Reactive:  “I can’t… Why can’t I…?”
  • Proactive: “How can I…?”
  • Reactive:  “I should… I have to…”
  • Proactive:  “I want to…  I long to… I desire…”
  • Reactive: “Why can’t I stop doing that?”
  • Proactive:  “What would I rather be doing?  What’s one small step I can take towards making the change I want?”
  • Reactive: “That’s just how it is.”
  • Proactive: “What can I do to change this?”  Or, if you cannot change the circumstances, “What can I do to improve my personal experience of what is happening?”
  • Reactive: “If only I had more time… I’m too busy to do what I want.”
  • Proactive: “How can I make time?  What is most important right now?  What can I let go of to make time for what’s most important to me?”
  • Reactive:  “If only they would change…”
  • Proactive:  “They are who they are.  What can I do to meet my own needs or to improve this relationship?”
  • Reactive: “I can’t do this all on my own.”
  • Proactive: “How can I receive the support I need?”

Learning how to be proactive at work is all about paying attention to the brief moment between the external event and your emotional response.

As you pause, reflect, and consciously choose your response more and more often, you will surprise yourself by realizing that you do know how to be proactive, which is a crucial step toward creating the life you want to live!

Are you ready to take the next steps toward work-life balance? Are you ready to embrace the life you were meant to live? Apply for a free Discovery Session today, and click here to learn about how executive coaching can help you achieve maximum success at work.


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