When you’re starting your journey to be proactive, it’s really hard to see how it can improve your day to day life. But once you do, the rewards are plenty and you start to appreciate the beauty of every day life and living as a human being on this earth.
When I started my self improvement journey back in 2016 (way before this blog existed and way before I truly knew myself), I started to read Dr. Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a transformative book for me and the first habit: Be Proactive, is my favourite habit which serves as the inspiration for this blog.
Realistically, it’s not always easy to be consistent and actively maintain proactivity. It’s easy to miss a day, to miss one item on the routine and to have something else going on (usually it’s something important that we can’t ignore) take up your time. We’ve all had that happen to us in many forms: family, work, school, you name it. Let’s not forget the many ways that COVID changed our lives. I’ve had all of that happen to me for the past five years, so I know the true struggle of trying to change and trying to make it stick.
With all these outside forces it’s easy to slip back into a reactive state. I use state instead of “life” because we can change the state of our being, just like in physics how matter can undergo different changes of state. Whether or not this change of state leads to a “better” or “worse” situation for us depends on what we do.
When you fall off, the best way to get back on track again is to start small. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1%, 0.1%, 0.01% or even 0.00000000000000000001% if it’s one small change that made you feel better.
How does this relate back to the post title? I find that after slowly injecting proactivity into my life, I can see it everywhere in my life. When I’m stuck in traffic, instead of getting angry I could turn on a podcast or listen to BTS on Spotify. Whenever I feel stuck on an assignment, I go out and walk my dog. If I feel angry, I water my plants (because who can stay angry while watering plants?).
The key thing to take away from this is we all have the freedom of choice. Even though I haven’t met any of my goals yet or I don’t have a lot yet, I’ve found it quite astounding at the many things that I can do within my life the way it currently is. Once we realise this and practice this in small steps, we can see the value in it and do more of it everyday. We start to appreciate ourselves and realise that even though it is small at the beginning, we have influence in our lives and the world around us.
Here’s a story about me: back in May 2021, I lost a job that I really enjoyed, due to COVID. The company decided to downsize and this included scaling back on their staff (resulting in me getting the boot). Instead of making a scene, I calmly accepted the verdict from my boss and finished my work day. After a few months of tough job searching I found a new job and I’m still at this company at the time of this writing. I thought it was a blessing to finally have work again (which it was and I’m grateful for it) however six months down the line, due to increasing demand and being overworked and stressed out (like we all are right now), I woke up one day and decided to make changes so that I could reduce the influence that work had on me (it wasn’t a good work environment and COVID made things worse) by going back to university and continuing my studies. This lead to me being able to make changes to my availability and getting a better work life balance. I’m still working at this place but instead of focusing too much on work , complaining about it (there’s nothing wrong with complaining as long as you do something about it) and accepting things as they are, I’m slowly making changes so that I can get to where I want to be and that I’m ready once opportunities show up.
While the Franklin Covey website provides more in-depth information on the first habit (which you can read here) here is my own process that I do to use proactivity in my everyday life. You may have heard something or do something similar already:
Step 1: Identify What You Want To Change
Whenever I want to change something in my life, I always try to identify what it is and why I want to change it. For example; I worked 5 days a week at odd hours and at odd lengths (some days I work for 4 hours and sometimes I work for 8). Shift work took a huge toll on my sleep pattern and mental health to the point that sometimes I’d be falling asleep while driving and believing it’s a miracle that I even got home alive (which, it is).
I wanted to change my work availability and wanted to find a new job. To do this, I decided to up-skill by going to university again and doing my Masters. This way, I have reduced availability and a better work-life balance.
Ask yourself: What do you want to change? I find that this question works for most things throughout my day. You may not be able to make huge changes immediately, but it’s the small changes that matter. For example if I want to change how I feel about being stuck in traffic, I put on a podcast so that I stop feeling miserable and start to see the time spent in traffic as time to learn something new or as a way to relax.
Step 2: Figure Out What Options Are Available To You
When I made the decision to go back to university, I’m grateful that I was in a place that I was able to do so. I had the idea for months but it also took me months to decide. It wasn’t until after speaking to my family and friends that I finally applied and accepted the possible changes that could go along with it.
The truth is, not everyone has the same options at certain points in time. There could be different factors that prevent us from getting certain options to make the changes that we want BUT this doesn’t mean we are out of options. Situations and circumstances can change. Do your research to see what options are available for the change that you want to make. If the options available at the present moment aren’t good for you, another valid option is to wait.
While you wait, let your imagination run wild. When I forget to set Spotify, the next best thing I can do is think of things in my head. Oftentimes what may seem like the silliest, improbable solution, may actually be very possible. It’s one of the many superpowers that we have as humans.
Step 3: Stick To Your Changes By Being Accountable
Once you’ve selected an option that you like to work towards making that change, stay on track by being accountable. This can come in many forms: telling your friends, keeping a habit tracker app, joining online communities, posting online on social media apps etc. I believe in technology being a tool that we can use for good, depending on how we use it.
When I say that I’m going to do things, I always tell my friends because they’re a supportive group of people and we encourage each other to live better. As an example, at the moment I’m part of a 30 day plank challenge with some of my friends and we notify each other once we’ve done the daily plank challenge. Seeing everyone do their planks makes me want to go on and continue with the challenge too.
If you don’t have a friend group, there’s always Reddit and Discord. There’s a community for anything that you can think of and the good thing is you can stay anonymous (if you’re feeling shy). If you need an accountability buddy, I am always contactable via my blog 🙂
Step 4: Always Remember Why You Wanted To Change
It’s normal to lose our way or have doubts while we want to make changes in our lives. To stay proactive, I recommend to always remember your reason. This reason will drive you and help you stay on track.
On my off-days where I don’t feel well or don’t want to study, I remember that the reason why I started my Masters is because I don’t want to be stuck at the same work place or the same kinds of job roles for the rest of my life. Whenever I’m craving McDonald’s, my boyfriend reminds me of the (last time) that we went, and for an unknown reason, the staff forgot to put my apple pie in the bag (which I really wanted) and every time I remember, I’m reminded of my health goals. At the time of this writing, I haven’t been to McDonald’s for about a month now!
Creating change is slow. At the start of aiming to inject proactivity into our every day lives, we need to be constantly aware and always remember why we want to change. Over time it will be easier to be proactive and see the rewards in our every day lives.