Thursday, June 28, 2012

Be proactive and succeed!

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
Whenever I had the opportunity — like when I pulled on the wishbone of a turkey and made a wish or blew out the candles on my birthday cake and made a wish — I would use the opportunity to plan for some future success.  That is, I would make my wishes specific and even place a time frame on them — that is, when I would like the wish to be granted.  I don’t believe in making wishes nor do I ever expect that the wishes I make will come true.  Then why, you might ask, do I waste my time making them?
I use strategies designed to motivate me and structure my life.  Whenever I make a wish, I tie the wish into what I am currently working on or what I intend to do next.  My wishes never challenged reality, set unreasonable goals, nor lay outside my skill level and abilities.  It’s a little like providing my to-do-list with a catalyst — an agent designed to speed up my accomplishments.  I have found it to be a fun technique for challenging myself to not just reach my goals but to achieve at a higher level (achievement and then some!), and become a better person.
(I have always believed that if indeed there was a fairy-god-mother who granted wishes, I might just as well be on her good side and make wishes she could grant if she could and would grant if she would.  I know it’s pure silliness, but life can’t be all serious without a little fun.  I find little bits of fun when and where I can!  — just little bits!)
It is true that how I handle wishes — a very minor activity and occurrence, to be sure — is just one aspect of being proactive.  Hunter Taylor, in an essay, “How to Become Proactive,” at writes that "’Proactive’ is defined by as ‘serving to prepare for, intervene in or control an expected occurrence or situation, esp. a negative or difficult one; anticipatory.’”
For me, the key to becoming more proactive comes down to one thing: Plan ahead.  I know that’s easier said than done, but once the attitude shift is made (“I need to plan ahead”), the action will follow. 
The best way to plan ahead is to be prepared.  Build all the resources you can in all the ways you can at all the times and places you can.  The more tools (resources) in your tool box, the more likely you can respond appropriately in any situation you find yourself.  Knowing that you can respond makes it easier to plan ahead because you know exactly what resources you will need and how you will use them.
At, in her essay, “Tips to Become Proactive to Make Better Decisions in Life,” Michelle L Gallagher offers the best, compact, set of suggestions I have discovered: “Tip #1 - Remain Proactive in Tackling Challenges. . . .Tip #2 - Be a Problem-Solver, Not a Problem-Avoider. . . . Tip #3 - Manage Your Time and Resources Efficiently. . . . Tip #4 - Break Your Larger Goals Down into Daily Objectives. . . . Tip #5 - Spend Time Reflecting on Your Personal Life.”  How you have responded in the past is a good indicator for how you will respond in the future; thus, reflecting gives you time to think about how you would like to respond and how you need to change to accomplish it.
One of the biggest challenges in my life happened after six years of teaching at the University of Massachusetts.  In moving from there to Bowling Green State University, I was put in charge of a large, basic, speech-communication course.  I lectured to 300 to 350 students (the same lecture 5 times a week) for fifteen weeks.  To assist in and support my presentations (and to help students take notes), I used trays that contained 50 slides each.  This was before Power Point Presentations that could be run from a laptop computer situated on a speaker’s lectern.
For every single presentation, without fail, I would go to the “control room” behind the lecture hall — behind the rear-projection screen where the slides were to be displayed.  This was a “security” check for me to make certain the correct tray of slides was set up, that the projection equipment was working, that someone would be “on call” if there was a problem, and to let them (the control-room personnel) know that I was depending on them for all the technical apparatus, lighting, lavalier microphone (sound system), and quiet (I wanted to hear no noise of any kind from the control room while I was lecturing).
I made this trip — this check-up — five times a week, fifteen weeks a term, for twenty-two years.  Did I ever encounter any problems?  Of course.  Most of them were minor and could be solved or addressed during my pre-lecture visits.
This is what proactive is all about.  No matter how professional I was; no matter how many years I lectured; no matter how many times a week I performed, I routinely checked to assure quality control from those on whom I depended.  I knew it, and my control-room personnel knew it, and I seldom encountered any problems — none that were major.
In my life I have discovered there is a close relationship between being positive and being proactive.  That is, possessing a positive, optimistic, frame of mind, contributes significantly to my ability, need, and willingness to be proactive.  At, Albert Garoli, in an essay, “Become Positive, Become Proactive,” offers readers four strategies for developing a positive outlook: 1) Change the way you think so you can change the way you feel. . . . 2) In the moments when you can’t help being angry or irritated, take a deep breath. . . . 3) Get back to the basics and stop worrying about all those extras (like the fancy car, the brand-name clothes, your social status, etc.). . . . 4) Our daily issues and concerns seem miniscule when there is a bigger picture in the way. Think about a great project to do, a mission, something bigger than yourself or your family. Think about something that can impact a greater number of people for an extended period of time.”  The thought is that if you become more positive, chances are you’ll become more proactive.
Being proactive has not only assisted me in my professional life, but it has helped as well in decision making, problem solving, and dealing with most daily issues and routines.  To plan ahead has wonderful results in relieving stress, saving time, and getting more accomplished.  Being proactive is an essential skill for anyone who is effective or who wants to be successful.
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At, Pavlina writes a great essay, “Be Proactive,” in which he contrasts proactivity and reactivity.  There are many good ideas in this piece.

At — Small Business: Canada, Susan Ward, in her essay,“5 Keys to Leadership for Small Business: Even Parties of One Need a Leader,” writes about the importance of proactivity for leaders.  Her five keys are: 1) A leader plans, 2) A leader has a vision. 3) A leader shares her vision,4) A leader takes charge.  5) A leader leads by example.
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Copyright June, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.


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