Learnings on the proactivity challenge

This has been a very insightful challenge. And I will admit I have not managed to conquer it as well as I would have liked because there is so much more to it!

Having clarity on what is important in our lives, who we want to be and what we need to achieve our goals is step # 1. Without this, we become a headless chicken running around and doing things without direction. Or even worse, we become puppets directed by somebody else (who may or may not have our best interest at heart). Since you are reading this post, I will assume you don’t want neither of those to happen to you.

Below I will share with you my experience with the proactivity challenge, how I did it and what I learned from each step.

  1. Identify the things I have influence over and spend most of my energy (if not all) on those. I thought this would be an easy start. Initially, I made a mental list of things but I had to spend energy remembering them. So I just wrote them down. In my journal, I now have a page where I list the things I believe I have influence over and also, those things that I don’t control. This is a way of acknowledging what is out of our control and let them go, so we can focus on the things we can control. This was a good start, I thought. However, we coexist with others in this world. It’s not just us trying to influence or control certain things. Conflict and frustration appear if those around us want something different; or joy and ease come to surface if there is a synergistic effort. Sound communication skills play a very important role at this point. We need to constantly check in and ask for feedback to confirm that what we are saying is having the impact we want. Negotiation skills are also a really nice add-on at this point. There are so many different techniques but we appear to always use the same basic ones. I will write more about these skills and how to build up on them in future posts.
  2. Make commitments and keep them. I would suggest to start with small things like “I will drink a glass of water every morning when I wake up” and build from there. This does strengthen the feeling of self control. It also builds trust with others, and it makes you dependable which in turn favours your influence.
  3. Think about my responses to my own situations and what I should do about them. Already in the1970s,  psychologist Aaron Beck proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions that is just different ways the mind has to convince us of something that isn’t really true. There are many different ways we do this: filtering out the positive, polarising and thinking it is all black or white, overgeneralising, catastrophizing… the list goes on! Chances are we all do at least one of these. So we need to check in and confirm we are not falling foul of this.
  4. Use our imagination to exercise our freedom to choose. What would you do to get the results you want? This is not only fun but also very helpful to bring down those thoughts that are limiting our options and holding us back. It’s like doing a brainstorm with yourself that will help you think of potential solutions. My researcher side is showing here!
  5. Be a role model not a critique and be part of the solution, not the problem. These two are related and are really important. Avoid gossip and/or talking negatively about other people or other people’s initiatives, and avoid being the one whining if you don’t bring solutions to the table. This is not helpful for anybody. When you do this, instead of building rapport you weaken you trust.
  6. Admit my mistakes promptly. This shows that you care and have a good professional ethics. But in addition to this, when something goes well share the success with your team, don’t take all the credit if other people has helped you, no matter how little. This is a very effective way of increasing your influence among those around you.
  7. Work on what you can control, on yourself. In marketing there is a model called SWOT analysis that helps to identify factors to build a strong strategic plan for businesses, but we can use it for our personal lives too. Let’s think of ourselves as a brand. Internal factors are what we have control over (ourselves), and external factors, those we cannot control (other people, the weather, etc.). It is a waste of energy to focus on what we cannot control. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, try shifting the focus from the external situation to yourself and your own reaction to the circumstance. You have a choice: to control what you do, or let the external factor control it. It’s not easy, it requires practice (lots of it), but the benefits of mastering this technique are immense.

Conclusions

It is important to acknowledge the small wins. Any little step forward counts, because it brings you closer to your goals in life. And this is worth celebrating! Listen to your favourite song, go to your favourite park, kiss your favourite person… This will fuel your motivation to keep you going!

Proactivity is a difficult challenge, it requires more than one month to even grasp the surface. And then it requires even more time to consolidate the new habits. The more we do this, the easier it’ll be.

So let’s start with the first step… What can you do RIGHT NOW that will have a direct impact on your life?

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