Are You Truly in Control of Your Life or Does it Just Happen?
Move to being a proactive person from being a procrastinator
Your life doesn’t just “happen.” Or does it? For many people, life just goes by and we are “victims” of events, circumstances and situations. My friend who was an FBI hostage negotiator, George Kolhrieser describes this “helpless” situation as being taken “hostage”.
The truth is your life is carefully designed by you. Yes, you read that right – You! Each decision and choice you make are all yours. Every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And the choices you make determine your life.
A few years ago, someone came to me and lamented about the state of the person’s life and how “unlucky” the person was. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. After a long state of moaning, I decided to help this person. So, I asked him to list down what were the key things he did the day before. His typical day went something like this:
“I woke up and knew I had to get lots of stuff done. So, I set the alarm to ensure I woke up on time. But when the alarm went off, I just had to hit snooze as I still felt a bit tired.
I knew that if I slept a bit more, my tiredness would subside and I would be much more productive. So, I slept on and then suddenly realised that it was already 10am. I quickly got up and knew I had to hurry as I had a long day with many things to accomplish.
“I quickly prepared some breakfast, fried some eggs. As I was about to fry the eggs, I realised I didn’t have cooking oil. So, I quickly rushed to a grocery store to pick up the oil. I knew that I needed a good breakfast so that I could be productive. But as it was already almost 10:45am, I decided to have breakfast outside. Then I rushed back to get my work done.
“But it was already almost noon by the time I got back. I decided I will make some lunch so that I would not get distracted once I start work. By 1pm, I had cleaned up the kitchen and my lunch was ready. I decided to jump right into work.
“Within 10 minutes, my friend called me and started telling me about some interesting gossip. Not wanting to be rude, I listened to him but the call lasted more than an hour. I decided to have my lunch then. And I thought maybe I should watch some TV with my lunch.
“Before I knew it, it was 6pm. I knew I had to get my work done. So again, I started working on it but a few friends came over to the house and asked me to join them for a quick drink. I decided to join them and maybe grab dinner too (which would save me some time).
“After dinner, I got back by 9pm and was pretty tired after the long day. But I knew I had to get my stuff done, so I went to the computer to start work. But I saw my emails and started answering them. And some of them had links to really good YouTube videos.
“Before I knew it, it was almost midnight and I was extremely tired. I decided that I would wake up tomorrow and make sure I get my stuff done. I was determined to get things done.”
As I heard his story (and this is quite a common story), I asked the person, “why do you think you have not achieved much so far” and he answered again, “I am really unlucky. I never get the breaks like other people”.
I could only smile and sigh. But the more people I asked to write out their calendars, the more I found this a common theme – we love to procrastinate and never make the hard choices that enable us to succeed.
Choosing to skip a movie to get work done, or choosing to not eat junk food to become healthy are little choices that we all make daily. And we can choose to be proactive. We can choose to eliminate all forms of procrastination from our lives.
Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your boss or others. Proactive people recognise that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame events, circumstances, or other people for their behaviour. They know they choose their behaviour.
Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by external stimuli. They forget that they have the power to choose their response. Proactive people also tend to have positive language. They use words like “I can”, “I will” and “I shall” whilst reactive folks tend to use language such as “I have to”, “if only” and “I wish.” Proactive folk never worry about conditions in which they have little or no control. They focus on areas which they can change and influence. Are you a proactive or reactive person? Answer these questions below to determine how your fare:
· Do you accomplish many things in your life or do you feel that you need to wait for good things to happen?
· Do you react to events around you or do you take initiative to prepare for, participate in and/or control the events?
· Do you blame others when things go wrong or do you seek to find out how you contributed to the issue and what lessons you can learn from the episode?
· Do you make a decision only when you have to or do you proactively make daily decisions that help you achieve long-term success?
· Do you sit around waiting for things to happen or do you proactively decide to make changes even when things may be working fine?
· Do you constantly have excuses like having no time to exercise or finish your work or are you proactively exploring how you can make time for these things?
“Be Proactive” is the No.1 habit from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey believes that being proactive means taking conscious control over your life, setting 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.
According to Covey, there is a gap between stimulus and response, and within this gap lies the choice for our proactive response. Within this gap lie four special human endowments:
1 Self-awareness – The understanding that you do have a choice. If someone abuses you, you can choose to insult them back. If you are offered some junk food, you can choose not to accept it or eat it.
2 Conscience – The ability to consult your inner conscience to make right decisions for yourself based on your core principles and beliefs.
3 Creative imagination – The ability to envisage other responses. By using your mind’s eye, you can mentally produce alternate options.
4 Independent will – You do not have to conform to expectations of others but have the freedom to choose your own unique reaction.
STEPS TO BEING PROACTIVE
So, how do you become more proactive in everything you do? Chrissy Scivicque, a career expert and coach, claims there are 5Ps to proactive success. According to her, these will help you be effective at work:
1. Predict – Develop foresight. Learn to anticipate problems and events. Understand how things work – patterns, routines and natural cycles that exist in your business. Never become complacent. Never expect the past to be an accurate predictor for the future.
2. Plan – Proactive people plan for the future. Write down your plans. This is key to ensuring your plans get executed and completed.
3. Prevent – Proactive people foresee potential obstacles (like feeling tired, friends calling you for drinks etc) and find ways to overcome them before those barriers turn into major issues that hinder your progress.
Write out your game plan to overcome these key barriers/obstacles (i.e if a friend calls me to go for a drink, I will say I will come over once I am done) that may hinder you from accomplishing your actions.
4. Participate – Never idly observe. Get involved and take initiative. Always be part of a solution and not the problem.
5. Perform – Being proactive means taking timely, effective action. Take ownership of your performance and hold yourself accountable.
Proactiveness simply is being responsible for our own lives. Remember, our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. Are you a proactive person? Or are you still a “hostage” who is forced to being reactive to circumstances, situations and people? You can decide today to choose to be proactive. It is just that – a choice!
Are you a proactive person or a person who loves to procrastinate? Watch this video below and see a typical day of a procrastinator. Are you like this person?