The proactive habits of highly successful people

The ability to control your own effectiveness is life-changing — but proactiveness proceeds effectiveness.

Many people spend a lot of time in reactive mode — dealing with other people’s “emergencies” and “urgent” tasks.

“Reactive” means, you don’t take “initiative”, you wait to be told what to do or how to spend your precious time. You stop advancing your personal goals. You let the events set the agenda. You are practically checking things off others’ lists.

Reactive people believe the world is happening to them. They often say:

  • “There’s nothing I can do.”
  • “I can’t change that.”
  • “I don’t have time”

Are your daily activities and tasks advancing your goals or someone else’s vision? When you take charge of the direction of your life and career, you become proactive — plan your day, weeks and months in advance.

“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,” says Steve Pavlina, a self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur.

Which activities get you the most results? Focus on those and cut the waste. If you really want to advance your life and career, don’t allow other people’s agenda to rule your personal work week.

“Proactive” on the other hand is associated with control. You are in charge. You plan and take the initiative in your own direction. The prefix pro means ‘before’; that means, if you are proactive, you prepare for something before it happens.

When you are proactive, you react ahead of time, hence saving you time and energy. It’s a way of dealing with things, that you can develop and strengthen.

By picking your tasks carefully, you treating time like the precious gift that it is: limited, valuable, to be filled with the best things.

“There are three types of people in this world. Firstly, there are people who make things happen. Then there are people who watch things happen.

Lastly, there are people who ask what happened? Which do you want to be?” says Steve Backley, author of The Champion in all of Us: 12 Rules for Success.

“Be Proactive” is habit #1 from Steve Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey argues that there’s a gap between stimulus and response, and within that gap lies your potential to choose your response.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response,” wrote psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

“Look at the word responsibility — “response-ability” — the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling,” writes Steve Covey.

Tony Robbins refers to proactivity as using your Personal Power.

Brian Tracy states, “Those who don’t set goals for themselves are forever doomed to work to achieve the goals of others.”

Denis Waitley, author of “The Psychology of Winning” and “The Winner’s Edge” once said in an interview, “Winners make things happen whereas losers just let things happen.”

Winners are very well organized — they have detailed plans for every facet of their everyday lives. If you really want to be a winner in life, you need to have a very definite purpose, which you make happen.

Simple ways to be more proactive in life

Proactive people don’t just drift along from day-to-day with absolutely no direction to their daily activities. Being proactive means taking conscious, deliberate and intentional control over your life.

It means setting goals and working to achieve them.

It means you consciously engineer and design your life. Proactive people are constantly taking action and moving forward.

They are clear about what they want.

Being proactive is a way of thinking and acting. It’s about taking ownership of your performance and holding yourself accountable.

In difficult and challenging times, proactive people take control of their lives no matter the environment. They do more than “cope” in spite of everything they feel or see around them.

They take control of their habits, actions, and reactions.

For everything you can’t control, there is usually something you can control — you are in control of your actions and reactions.

Within your power is your mindset, how you spend your time, who you decide to spend time with, where you put your energy and things you can actively or proactively do to prepare for the future instead of worrying.

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and a Stoic philosopher once said, “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”

For example, instead of worrying or reacting anxiously to a life event, you can write down ow you will deal with foreseeable problems if they do occur — your proactive action plan.

For example, if your financial situation makes you anxious, create a plan to earn more, spend less or invest some of your savings in low-risk investment opportunities. Being proactive means anticipating problems, seeking new solutions and taking action.

Proactive people are always looking ahead at a future event, anticipating problems and possible outcomes and taking steps to overcome them.

Life is short. Train your brain to be proactive and design your life in the direction of your dream and vision. Remember, everything you want in life is on the other side of reactive. Your victories are in your control. If you want to live an extraordinary life, be proactive — not reactive.

This article originally appeared on Medium.