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How to Adopt a Proactive Mindset

Man sitting down and writing out his goals

It may seem counterintuitive to try and prepare for the unexpected, but by taking a proactive approach to every situation, you can learn to control your circumstances and make better use of your time, resources, and energy. Training our minds is just as important as training our bodies, and training the mind to have a proactive mindset is one of the most beneficial habits you can form. Having a proactive mindset will positively affect every area of your life. By learning how to be proactive, you will reliably reduce stress, feel more control in your life, and turn even negative situations into growth experiences.

What is a Proactive Mindset?

Those with a proactive mindset are determinants of their own future and choose to take active steps toward their desired goals rather than waiting for good fortune to befall them. People with a proactive mindset are shown to be more successful in their entrepreneurial careers as well as their personal lives. But what does being proactive even mean? We’ve all heard the phrase, “expect the unexpected.” This mantra is a great summary of what it is to be proactive. Being proactive means being an active participant in your life and planning for your future and future circumstances before they happen. When you have a proactive mindset, you are putting more effort into the forethought and preplanning of life’s circumstances so when the unexpected does happen, you are ready. Being prepared for the future ultimately leads to more control of the future, less stress, and the ability to make decisions and maneuver quickly when life catches you off-guard. Being proactive, as opposed to reactive, will benefit you in ways that may surprise you.

Proactive vs Reactive

You may be thinking, Well, of course, that seems like common sense. While preparing for the future may seem simple and natural, human nature tends to be far more reactive than proactive. For example, how many of us have waited to go to the dentist until we have a toothache? With a proactive mindset, we would schedule and have kept our dentist appointments and catch any signs of early decay, saving ourselves a lot of pain and trouble. Sometimes, being proactive will mean having to do something a little uncomfortable or inconvenient in advance in order to save ourselves greater discomfort (or even pain) in the future. But really, that’s the whole point. By having a proactive mindset, you will be able to save yourself untold amounts of stress, discomfort, and even money.

Proactive vs Reactive | Be Proactive | Productivity Guy

To have a reactive mindset as opposed to a proactive mindset is to be always caught unprepared and forced to react in the moment to try and solve life’s curveballs. Those who are reactive wait to act until they are forced to by unwanted circumstances. Being reactive is like waiting until your house is on fire to buy a fire extinguisher. Even if you are putting all your effort into solving the problem, in a reactive state, it will most often be “too little, too late.” If you find yourself often feeling surprised, confused, and overwhelmed when something in your life doesn’t go the way you expected, or you constantly feel like you are scrambling to keep up, you may be caught in a reactive mindset. But don’t worry, you can change your mindset from reactive to proactive, and we are here to help.

How to Adopt a Proactive Mindset

Training your mind to have a proactive mindset may take a little bit of time, but it is well worth the effort. When you first set out to become more proactive, it may seem overwhelming and maybe even a little bit scary. If you start to feel overwhelmed, slow down, take a deep breath, and know that the effort you’re putting in now will ultimately make your life much easier and far less stressful. While leading a proactive lifestyle takes a little more effort in the beginning stages, you will find that it is far less effort than experiencing a reactive lifestyle.

Here are a few actionable steps to take to adopt a proactive mindset:

Accept personal responsibility for your successes

Accepting responsibility for your successes (and failures) may feel intimidating if you are not used to it. But once you take this step, you will see how empowering it is to understand that you are in control of your own fate and have the ability to lead yourself to success. Don’t wait for someone else to take notice of you and give you the career or personal achievements you’ve been waiting for. Take the initiative, make a plan, and take the steps you need to in order to succeed. Stop making excuses about why or how outside influences are keeping you down. I challenge you to take complete responsibility for your life and everything in it and watch how your mind will change from feeling embittered and stuck to feeling empowered and freed from outside influences.

Business people meeting at office and use post it notes to share idea.
Take the initiative and make a plan (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Focus on the aspects of life that you can control

With such plentiful access to constant world news, politics, and the jabbering of millions on social media, it’s easy to feel that your life is being impacted by too many giant issues that seem to be holding you down. If this sounds familiar, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then open your eyes. What do you see? Chances are you are somewhere familiar, surrounded by an environment and people who you have a direct impact on every day. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the article you read on pollution, start where you stand and begin by tidying your living space. Having a clean space has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and mood. Once you focus on improving the aspects of your life that you have control of, you will be surprised at how much the small things impact the bigger picture.

Focused millenial african american student
Focus on improving the aspects of your life (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Set goals

Setting goals is a simple way to begin exercising your proactive mind. Goal setting is a proven and effective way to prioritize what you really want, why, and how to get there. Setting goals is like building a roadmap to guide your steps to achieving your aspirations. If you’re like me, you can’t get anywhere without a GPS, and you wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map, so don’t go through life without listing your goals and how to get there.

When setting your goals, remember to start small and achievable. For example, if you struggle with depression or mental health, set a goal to shower and get dressed every day. Wanting to improve your financial situation? Set a goal to only spend one month on your necessities (groceries, housing, etc.) and see how much you save! You may be surprised at how your smaller goals help you achieve much greater goals.

Prioritize a few big-picture goals to accomplish, as opposed to focusing only on smaller goals

Having a few big-picture goals is an important aspect of envisioning a more far-off future. Now, be careful when you make your big-picture goals to be sure it is still something in your control. Instead of setting the goal to change the face of factory farming, you may choose to achieve this by growing your own food or starting a farmers market in your area. Make sure your big goals are exciting to you, achievable, and meaningful in some way. Whether that means taking that international trip with a loved one you have always talked about, or owning a home, having big goals in addition to smaller stepping-stone goals is a great way to keep your sights focused on a promising future that your proactive mindset will achieve.

Final Thoughts

By taking responsibility for your life, taking control of what’s around you, and setting goals (both big and small), you will be well on your way to creating a proactive mindset. You’ll find yourself anticipating the needs in your life and feeling the motivation and ability to plan, prepare, and take action to prevent negative experiences and ensure the positive. Choose to face life head-on with your eyes wide open, and you will build the courage and ability to tackle whatever life throws at you. Admittedly, unforeseen circumstances will continue to arise when we least expect them; however, by adopting a proactive mindset, you can make calculated and thoughtful progress toward success even in the midst of chaos.