True Productivity Requires ProactivityAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose." ~ Stephen R. Covey
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, as well as a Nazi concentration camp survivor, wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he analysed man’s capacity to overcome his difficulties from a psychiatric point of view. He explains that all human beings, unlike animals, have self-awareness and the ability to act on the basis of that awareness. This means that we’re capable of responding to a stimulus in a completely different way to what our instincts suggest and even to what we have been taught.
According to this principle of human nature, our power as individuals lies in our freedom of choice. This is why Stephen Covey says that proactivity is the most basic habit we must develop to be efficient and productive.
While reactive behavior has an external origin – things happen that force you to act –, proactive behavior has an internal origin – it stems from your willingness to do things. Being proactive involves taking control of events rather than just watching things happen.
This form of behavior occurs when you accept responsibility for making things happen and take the initiative. Being proactive takes time and effort, as it involves anticipating situations, considering different options, weighing possible alternatives and making your own decisions to achieve your goals.
You could blame your problems on circumstances, environmental conditions, or other people, but ultimately you must accept that you are responsible for your own life and act accordingly.
“No one can hurt you without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
How do you know if you’re a proactive person? Here are a few hints:
- A proactive person understands that they have the ability to direct their life.
- A proactive person acts as a consequence of conscious decisions that are based on their principles and values.
- A proactive person, instead of waiting for things to just happen, defines their goals and works to achieve them.
- A proactive person acts on the problems over which they have direct or indirect control, and simply accepts that there are others that are beyond their reach.
- A proactive person is not afraid to use their imagination and creativity to explore new avenues.
- A proactive person quickly recognizes their mistakes, corrects them and learns from them.
It is perfectly normal that a good part of your daily tasks come from external agents (your work, your family, your community, etc.), but there should always be a set of actions generated by you.
If you practice GTD, it’s very easy to analyze whether your behavior is fundamentally reactive or not. Take a look at your list of projects and your list of next actions. How many of those actions are born from yourself and how many are imposed on you?
To be proactive you must be clear about your goals in life, and carry out the actions that help you achieve them. GTD allows you to align your daily actions with your long-term goals through the 6-level model for reviewing your own work.