4 Ways to Be More Proactive

Instead of waiting for something outside yourself to rescue you from circumstance, take action to create the life you want.
Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #437

It’s fun to be young!! Other people take care of us. They solve our problems. They feed us, clothe us, and wipe our chins when we accidentally dribble. Oops.

They even give us goals: get an ‘A’, graduate from high school, build a drone that can spy on the neighbors, stuff like that. Then we hit the Real World, and there’s no one driving our lives … except us. But sometimes, we just don’t notice the change. We keep waiting for direction that will never come. 

Have you ever had the thought, “I wish they would take care of this?” “I wish someone would clean up around here.” “I wish the government would bring back jobs.” “I wish my company would train me on the skills I need for a promotion.” Those are red flags. When you encounter them, it’s a sure sign you’re still living reactively. If you want to drive your own life, you need to be proactive.

Don’t Wait for Permission

Being proactive begins with not waiting for others to tell you what to do. We could wait for instructions from bosses, assignments from teachers, or suggestions from our shmoopies. That’s what jobs, schools, and parents trained us to do. They want us to be their unquestioning mind-laves. But when we wait for permission, we’re at their mercy. We don’t like being at someone else’s mercy. They might have different goals. They might want to be Grand Poohbah, instead of making us Grand Poohbah. And even if they share our dreams, they might be so slow or incompetent that our chances still slip away.

No, it’s better to take matters into your own hands. Instead of waiting for them to tell you when and how to act, decide what you believe is right, and just do it. (“Just Do It”, and thus, all of human motivation is probably a trademark of Nike Corporation.) This gets you moving immediately on something you know you care about. And what if things go wrong, and you really should have listened to their warnings about how you shouldn’t mix Mentos and Coke next to the nice living room furniture? In that case, you can still apologize, ask forgiveness, and learn from your mistakes—which is certainly better than never having tried at all.

Make Your Future Happen

Being proactive means not waiting for permission. Being proactive also means taking ownership over your dreams, and making them happen! Yes, you, making them happen.

Owning your dreams is simple, but it isn’t easy. You have to start paying attention to the way you think about your world. Whenever you think a thought that begins with “They should…” or “Why doesn’t someone…?” Change that thought to “I should…” or “Why don’t I…?” Nobody cares about making your life better more than you do, so listen to the person who cares the most: you.

After graduating from college, I lived in crowded, grad student housing with leaky walls and a paint job the color of zombie pus. If you’ve never seen zombie pus, you aren’t missing anything.

Every day on the way to work, I would walk by a new luxury apartment building. It was beautiful brick, with tasteful decor and gorgeous colors, none of which came from the inside of a zombie. I’d stare wistfully and think, “Someday I’ll live somewhere like this.” 

Then one day I realized it would never happen unless I made it happen. So I went to the rental office and looked at apartments. My income wasn’t enough to qualify to rent an apartment on my own (these were luxury, after all, and I was pretty un-luxurious), so they gave me a day to find roommates. One trip to my old dorm, some fast talking, and the next day, three of us signed a lease. And suddenly luxury wasn’t just “someday,” it was “now” — thanks to glorious, wonderful, ME!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.