Thursday, March 22, 2007

Being Proactive

My 200th post!

Being proactive means that instead of merely reacting to events as they happen, you consciously engineer your own events.

This post has been abridged from one of Steve Palina's blog posts

- “Be Proactive” is habit #1 from Steve Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 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.
- Steve Covey points out that there’s a gap between stimulus and response, and within that gap lies the potential for us to choose our response. Four special human endowments give us this power:
  1. Self-awareness - the understanding that you do have a choice between stimulus and response. If someone insults you, you can choose not to become angry. If you are offered a donut, you can choose not to eat it.
  2. Conscience - the ability to consult your inner compass to decide what is right for you. You can make decisions based on unchanging principles, regardless of what is socially favored at the moment.
  3. Creative Imagination - the ability to visualize alternative responses. By using your imagination, you can mentally generate and evaluate different options.
  4. Independent Will - You have the freedom to choose your own unique response. You aren’t forced to conform to what others expect from you.
- It can be argued that on some level, we’re always reacting to events, either external or internal. The difference between proactivity and reactivity can then be viewed in terms of what degree of “mental processing” occurs during the gap between stimulus and response. A proactive person will apply the four human endowments to choose a response (or to choose no response at all). But even more than that, a proactive person will invest the time to make conscious life choices and follow through on them.

- Proactive people are aware of their core values. They consciously make key decisions based on those values. They create their own opportunities and direct the flow of their own lives. Proactive people will take actions that often seem mysterious to reactive people. They may suddenly quit their job to start a new business, even though everything seemed to be going well for them. They’ll often start new projects or activities “out of the blue” when it seems like there’s no externally motivated reason to do so. A proactive person will still pay attention to external events, but they’ll pilot themselves to their desired destination regardless of those events.

- If a reactive person were to captain a ship, the ship would flow with the currents. This person would be preoccupied with studying the currents, trying to predict where the ship will end up as a function of the currents. If the currents are good, this person is happy. If the currents are poor, this person feels stressed. On occasion this person might attempt to set a destination, and if the currents are good, the ship will arrive. But if the currents are poor, this person will bemoan them and give up the destination for an easier one.

If a proactive person were to captain a ship, however, the ship would go wherever the captain wanted it to go. This captain would still note the currents, but they’d merely be used for navigational purposes. Sometimes the ship would flow with the currents; other times it would steam against them. It matters little whether the currents are good or not; this captain will reach the intended destination regardless of the currents. The currents can only control the time of arrival and the exact path from starting point to final destination. But the currents have no power to dictate the final destination; that is entirely the captain’s choice.

Some examples of reactive [proactive] language:

  • Where is the industry going? [Where shall I go next, and how will I get there?]
  • I don’t have time to exercise. [How shall I make time to exercise?]
  • How much money can I expect to make if I do X? [How much money do I want to make, and what will I do to earn it?]
  • I’ll try it and see what happens. [I’ll do it.]
  • I’m too tired. [What can I do to increase my energy?]
  • I’ve never been very good at math. [How can I improve my math skills and enjoy the process?]
  • Nothing really inspires me. [What would I tackle if I knew I couldn’t fail?]
  • What is the meaning of life? [What is the meaning I wish to give to my life?]
- winners make it happen vs. losers let it happen.
- What matters is making the decision to start consciously directing your own life instead of being pushed along by external currents.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

A quote from Lou Gerstner

"This competitive focus has to be visceral, not cerebral. It's got to be in our guts, not out heads. They're coming into our homes and taking our children's college money"

Quoted Lou Gerstner, when he took over IBM. He showed photos of the CEOs of IBM's top competitors belittling IBM and gloating over their fall. He thus showed his anger visibly, and thereby got the his employees angry too, to build the competitive spirit from within them.

Lou Gerstner is one of the all-time best CEOs, who transformed IBM (1993-2002) into a completely entrepreneurial and innovative environment almost single-handedly to what it is today. He was also the former CEO of RJR Nabisco and American Express.