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A proactive mindset is a person’s ability to anticipate events so that he/she can take control of a situation and prepare for the situation ahead of time. Being proactive at work means always thinking about the future, planning and preparing for what lies ahead. It means taking action today to make tomorrow better.

On the contrary, being reactive means you allow circumstances to control you, rather than the other way around. Reactive people only take action when it’s absolutely required—when the consequences of inaction are pressing down upon them. It’s like waiting to put your seat belt on until you see an accident about to happen or waiting until the day you retire to start saving for retirement. It just doesn’t work.

People who are proactive at work make better use of resources, including time, energy, and money. They prevent problem from occurring as they have anticipated and implemented preventive measures. Proactive people respond promptly and appropriately to problems that can’t be avoided, thus reducing their negative impact. As a result, they experience less stress as they feel a greater sense of control.

Of course being proactive doesn’t guarantee a magical life where nothing goes wrong. However, it does reduce the number of problems. And it makes those stubborn, unavoidable problems easier to solve because you deal with them early—before they become disasters. Learning how to be proactive at work is a difficult skill to master, but it’s well worth the investment of time and energy. It is both an aptitude and an attitude—a way of doing and a way of thinking, which, when combined, become a way of being. It is truly the thing that differentiates ordinary professionals from exceptional ones.


Why Should We Think Proactively?

Proactive Thinking

If you have read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, you would have known that being proactive is one of the 7 habits. Many professionals are struggling with developing a proactive mindset despite the benefits that it can bring. Since problems of the future aren’t affecting their lives at the current moment, many professionals don’t feel the need to put forth effort to avoid or prepare for them.

Arguably, all successful entrepreneurs and professionals process and utilize the ability to proactively think. As market conditions change, and modern ideas grow old, entrepreneurs and professionals need to stay ahead of the game, to be successful.

People who developed proactive thinking control situations by causing things to happen rather than waiting to respond after things happen. People who are proactive don’t sit around waiting for answers to appear; they stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and find the answers. They don’t wait for someone to hand them an instruction manual and a box of tools; they’re resourceful.

Proactive people are constantly moving forward, looking to the future, and making things happen. They’re actively engaged, not passively observing. Being proactive is a way of thinking and acting.

As the saying goes, “Winners” anticipate and act, “losers” wait and react. So, start to learn how to be proactive instead of being reactive.

How to Be Proactive?

In this article, we listed down the 4 areas that you can focus on to help you shift toward being more proactive (and thereby successful!):


1. Think Big Picture and Focus More on The Future

Proactive Thinking focus on future

Proactive people plan for the future. There is a reason that the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield: it’s more important to know what lies ahead. While the rear view mirror may present what’s in the back (past/ historical data) that is useful to make predictions, but it can also constrain our thinking to what we already know. Therefore, in order to make the best decision, you have to know where you came from, where you are, and where you want to end up.

It’s easy to lose focus on the big picture when your day-to-day life consumes all your time and energy. All the more it’s important to consider your ultimate goals. There will always be little things to worry about, but don’t get so lost in the minutia that you lose track of what you are really trying to accomplish. Don’t lose sight of your long-term goals when everything is blowing up around you.

Focus on likely scenarios and create a plan. Plans can certainly change, but considering the most likely scenarios in advance will increase your chances of being prepared and remaining a step ahead of your competition. Put aside 30 minutes a week for forward planning. Doing so allow you to stay on track with your long-term goals while getting the day-to-day work done.


2. Take Personal Responsibility for Your Success

In an age when everyone has to have a “sponsor” to help their career, it can become easy to allow yourself to take a personal back seat with your career or business. You would think that taking personal responsibility for your success is common knowledge. Well, it may be known, but when it comes to application in career…responsibility is not always present…fact!

How many times do you hear people complaining about the economy, about the lack of opportunities, about the policies/ regulations, about highly competitive market and never actually taking any of the responsibility themselves?

You can hear it now…. That voice explaining every problem away with reasons of why they are not responsible for the situation or the outcome. Making excuses for failure or choices in life, instead of taking 100% responsibility for your actions, your thoughts and your goals are classic symptoms of people who fail to succeed, both in their professional lives and their personal lives. Having a proactive mindset  empowers you to be responsible for how the results come through your door. Make sure you always focus more on what you can do to be successful than on what others can do for you.


3. Focus on What You Can Control

It’s easy to feel stuck in a rut when we focus on what we cannot control. Indeed, the more we focus on things outside of our control, the more likely we are to feel anxiety, anger, and disappointment. Conversely, when we focus on what we can control, we can feel good, confident, empowered, and a sense of achievement.

There will be obstacles we can’t foresee and challenges we will have to face, but we are in control of how we react to those challenges. In every difficulty that comes up in life, we do have control of how we tackle these difficulties; we choose which mindset we bring to problems, and what our perception is when dealing with things beyond our control.

Just like the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, there are many things or measures that you can’t control when it was being introduced by the government regulatory (unless you are working in the relevant department and has certain say on it). Business who are greatly affected by the pandemic and the measures stayed focus on the things that they can control and innovate by pivoting to other lines of business.

Being proactive is to focus on what you can control to ensure your life works out the way you want. There can be a lot of variables in your life and you can’t control many of them. Focus on what you can control and watch your life change.


4. Prioritize and Make Things Happen

Being proactive means taking timely and effective action.

Technically, you can’t do everything, and if you try you will become reactive–bouncing from one item to the next. You need to prioritize your work and focus on completing it before moving to another task. You must be decisive and willing to do the work NOW.

Take ownership of your performance and hold yourself accountable. Don’t sit on the sideline and wait to see what happens. Stand behind your decisions. Being proactive means you have taken careful, thoughtful steps to choose the appropriate path; you’re not just reacting impulsively to your environment.

Would like to find out more? Watch the following 1-hour webinar on tips and tricks on how to be proactive:


What Does It Really Mean to Be Proactive at Work?