the ultimate guide to being proactive

Whether you run a company or have personal goals to tend to, being more proactive can help every person achieve more with the limited amount of time that they have. In fact, being proactive is one of the habits that form effective people according to Stephen Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

Here is the definition of proactivity by The Oxford English Dictionary: (of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Ultimately, by being more proactive within your life, you cause things to happen instead of performing damage control after the fact. Proactive people tend to be more successful, happier, people due to the fact that they chase their passions and wants with fervor, and in doing so, are more likely to achieve their dreams.

In today’s post, I want to convey some best practices that can help you and/or your team become more proactive and successful as a result!

Tips for Increasing Proactivity

The following tips will help you take action within your lives and make a true difference.
The following tips will help you take action within your lives and make a true difference.

Take Responsibility

The world is full of excuses. Excuses are on every street corner, in every building, and (at one point) in the mouths of every person alive. Excuses are the poison that can deter dreams, negate responsibilities, and chip away the power you have to change your life for the better.

Excuses hold power over us because we use them to justify our inaction and victimhood. We use them to allow ourselves to become complacent in life, and to avoid having to make the effort to change.

Jen Sincero, in her book You Are a Badass at Making Money states, “You can have your excuses or you can have success; you cannot have both.”

Ultimately, we can deter ourselves from making excuses by consciously taking sole responsibility for our lives. By taking responsibility, and blaming nobody but yourself for any shortcomings or expectations, you will form the mindset that opts to take action. Taking action is the very nature of proactivity, and is the necessary state for causing great improvements to your life and surroundings.

Practice taking sole responsibility by defining your part to play in the issues that occur in your life. It isn’t a comfortable process, but it is a necessary one.

For example, the traffic that made you late this morning? Instead of blaming the traffic for being uncontrollable and feeling sorry for yourself (victimhood) try to make an attempt to leave earlier. Or at least check the google traffic estimate! Doing so is a proactive solution!

Follow the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the effects result from only 20% of the causes. Some relative examples are that 80% of the world’s wealth is had by 20% of its inhabitants. Pareto noticed that 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pea-pods!

Why is this idea important? The Pareto Principle is necessary for understanding the key drivers of behavioral change and value addition.

Generally, in business, only 20% of the actions that a person or team takes is cause for 80% of the job! By focusing on these key drivers, we can implement changes that result in more output (work, money, productivity, etc.) with relatively less input!

Ask yourself this: Which actions do you take that are most important to your happiness, job, lifestyle, productivity, etc. The answers to these questions are the key actions that produce more output for you!

For example, if one-on-one leadership consulting is the cause for 80% of the benefit I provide to an organization, then I will obviously place more time, energy, and emphasis on that aspect of my business. Doing so helps the organization I consult for to thrive (as well as myself) and I waste no time on things that are unimportant to the intended goal.

Speak Up for Your Own Life

Speak up for yourself and your wants/needs. Remember, happiness comes to those who believe they are worth what they want in life!
Speak up for yourself and your wants/needs. Remember, happiness comes to those who believe they are worth what they want in life!

Proactivity is often affected by the way we think about ourselves. I often say that lifelong satisfaction is a result of your belief that you are worth the things that you want out of life. In such a belief, you become more willing to take action and grab what you want in a proactive way.

To many people take a back seat to others. People who struggle with low self-esteem or confidence may ultimately be steamrolled by society, and give up their personal power to that of the group who may not have their true interests in mind. Ultimately, by speaking up for your beliefs, goals, and passions, you allow yourself to take control of the future for you and not let others get in the way.

Don’t be afraid to disagree. Just don’t disagree with spite, do it respectfully to others, and don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Is your home insurance unfairly raising your rates? Speak up and discuss it with them. Are you being taken in a direction you don’t want to go by those around you? Speak up and make your feelings clear.

Ultimately, the power that is adopted by speaking up for your life is similar to that of taking sole responsibility. However, in this case, you simply don’t allow yourself to become a victim by practicing immediate control.

Quit the Complaints

Complaints tap into your personal power in a similar way to excuses. By complaining, you are allowing yourself to indulge in the way you believe that things “should” be in your life. “Should” is a horribly disempowering word. It is only ever used to describe why things aren’t the way you want them to be, and never allows you to focus on your power to change things.

Complaints are often perceived by others as an outwardly negative mindset, when in reality, what they purvey is an inwardly negative mindset. People who complain do not do so because of the circumstances within their lives, they complain because they feel the inherent lack of control over their lives.

Our perceptions of things must change in order to overcome complaints. Pessimists complain whereas optimists explain. Optimists tend to analyze and learn from situations in order to make them work out in the future. Pessimists fail to recognize their control and wish to justify it to others.

Become consciously aware of your complaints and, simultaneously, stop making them. Avoid people who constantly complain as they may suck you back into the drama and lack of personal power.

In fact, people who never complain often become more attractive and optimistic people to themselves and those around them! This is due to their unwillingness to justify their shortcomings based on the actions of others, and internally enforces the reasoning that they have more power than they originally had thought!

If you find yourself among those who complain, simply don’t participate, or change the topic of discussion. Doing so gives you personal power and also allows you to speak up for yourself.

Focus on The Future

The importance of proper focus is entirely understated. We all have time and energy in the world, it is the difference in our focus that causes us to live different lives, see different solutions, and believe different things.

Focus, in this sense, can be related to the Pareto Principle, however, I argue that a much broader scope of focus is needed in order to encourage happiness and satisfaction in our lives. We need to focus on the things that matter most to us as individuals. These things are in line with our personal beliefs, values, goals, and lifelong aspirations.

Without placing your focus into things that you believe in and value, you are setting yourself up for a life of quiet desperation. Without a proper focus, you will live a life you always wish to change.

I always related this mindset to the ideas presented by Simon Sinek in his book “Start With Why.” By focusing on “why” the company exists, and the reasoning behind its internal value, we can practice much more control and leverage over how we measure our actions. The same idea can be paralleled within the lives of individuals.

For example, let’s say that I’ve decided my passion is in helping people succeed to the best of their abilities (it is, by the way). Ultimately, what this means is that I can judge any action I take against my purpose.

Will I find a job for a company that believes only in making money? Likely not. I would, however, look for work (or start a company) in hopes of pursuing my passion. This leads to an increase in by-in from myself, and therefore, a proactive nature of personal interest.

Let Go of What You Can’t Control

Letting go of what you can’t control directly is necessary for maintaining your own sanity! Yes, I do still believe in taking full responsibility for your life, however, attempting to take responsibility for everyone else’s lives is a recipe for disaster.

Taking responsibility for your life is a great way to ensure that you take action when and where you can. Taking responsibility for other people’s lives is a great way to come across as needlessly controlling, untrusting, and paranoid. It can ruin relationships, destroy organizations, and break down trust. Trust, by the way, is a far more valuable asset than money or anything else.

Consider the effects that micromanagement has on a team. There is a theory of behavioral patterns called “The Drama Triangle.” The Drama Triangle points are 1) Victim, 2) Prosecutor, and 3) Rescuer.

A quick summary of these points:
1) The Victim releases their own personal power and enters a state of victimhood (obviously) and, therefore, takes no action to change his/her life/organization for the better.

2) The Prosecutor blames others for any and all shortcomings within their lives/organization, and takes power away from others in order to do things “their way or the highway.” Ultimately, they believe in the phrase ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

3) The Rescuer tries to mitigate all conflict or friction within their lives/organizations, and as a result, takes on much of everybody else’s responsibilities in order to keep things from blowing up and keep everybody happy (much to their personal detriment).

Ultimately, by letting go (emotionally, and/or within your actions) of things you cannot control, and focusing on what you can, you avoid the drama triangle. You will not be a victim because you will practice personal power within your focus, you will not be a prosecutor because you don’t take reluctant responsibility, and you will avoid being a rescuer by allowing the situation to be what it is instead of taking ALL control.

Have you ever worked for a micromanager? Did it inspire you, or demotivate you? likely the latter.

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems

Puzzles are solved by focusing on what is missing from the whole, not the issues you have when searching!
Puzzles are solved by focusing on what is missing from the whole, not the issues you have when searching!

Focusing on solutions is a great way to pull focus away from victimhood. How? Simply because focusing on solutions presents to your mind an ideal situation and action you can take, rather than focusing on the issue and allowing yourself to fall into thoughts and self-inflicted limiting beliefs.

Proactive people focus on solutions. They recognize the importance of taking action when it is at its clearest as opposed to over-analyzing and incurring “analysis paralysis.” Focusing on solutions is the best way to adopt positivity.

Our brains love to do one thing and one thing only, answer questions. Asking beneficial questions that have to do with your ability to alter your life will often bring great answers! Asking questions from the focus of an issue often only brings negatives into light.

Make a habit of analyzing an issue based on your search for solutions as opposed to listing things that are going wrong. Too many people see issues as insurmountable problems when in reality, a shift in focus can help reduce the issue and make it appear as the molehill and not a mountain.

Start viewing problems as they are; opportunities. By viewing every issue through the ability it provides to benefit you and improve you, you will begin focusing on the positive desired outcomes. The brain will then help you achieve those outcomes because you will have developed the vision for making good decisions.

Learn From Your Mistakes…and Try Again

Fear has killed more dreams than anything else. And fear can come across in ANYTHING. We are afraid to succeed, to fail, to live, to die, and a million other things.

A proper and honest quote can be taken from the mouth of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural address. “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Often, it is the feeling of fear that we truly despise. However, after feeling it and accomplishing something despite the fear, we feel empowered. Remember the first time you got on a rollercoaster? how about your first date? How about your first business deal?

These were likely scary things, but empowering once you gathered your control around them. Now they may seem inconsequential. They are likely not the big scary mountains you had to climb before.

This occurs because of the state of momentum we find ourselves in. By learning from our mistakes, and practicing our power to change, we become able to tackle any adversary! Doing so is the key to proactivity.

Imagine if you lived in a world where failure didn’t exist. Where you could be assured of your ability to accomplish something with enough time and effort. NEWSFLASH, we do live in this world. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a true and effective saying.

Celebrate When Things Go Right

Tony Robbins in his book, Awaken the Giant Within, makes the point that all we do is a result of the expected pain and pleasure that will occur from our actions. Place enough perceived pain on one thing, and enough pleasure on something else, and you can change your habits.

Ultimately, this is true. In order to become more proactive, you must associate pleasure with the things you do in order to continue the proper motivation and consistency to take action. Only with consistency and time can you make HUGE changes in your life from where you are today, to where you will be in the future.

Warren Buffet has said, “Making money is easy, but it costs the one thing that people don’t want to spend, time.”

Now, whether your goal is to make money, get married, start a business, become more profitable, (etc.) you will have to take the time to do so. Celebrating your successes can help with consistency by giving you something to look forward to, and providing the motivation to continue on in the future.

Take a moment and define what success means to you and how you will celebrate it! It doesn’t need to be anything big, just some time for you to revel in the moment and continue for the future.


Like a ripple in a lake, the effects of proactivity can be felt throughout your whole life. Proactivity breeds action, not impatience.
Like a ripple in a lake, the effects of proactivity can be felt throughout your whole life. Proactivity breeds action, not impatience.

By now you will have a firm grasp on the various beliefs and actions you can take (or stop taking) to make you more proactive within your life! Your willingness to try these tips and feel the beneficial changes they bring will result in a renewed sense of personal power, and ultimately, an amazing future.

Whether you wish to get more done in less time, focus on productivity, or simply make a change, these tips can help.

Remember, nobody else is going to hold you by the hand and implement these ideas, it is up to you and your sole responsibility to take action and make them work for you!

Here are all the tips listed to make it simple to see!

Take Responsibility
Follow the Pareto Principle
Speak Up for Your Own Life
Quit the Complaints
Focus on the Future
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Focus On Solutions, Not Problems
Learn from Your Mistakes…and Try Again
Celebrate When Things Go Right

Read some more blogs HERE!
Check out my book The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life HERE!
Hire me HERE!

-Austin Denison


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