5 Tips for Being a Proactive Person

Being a proactive person has many advantages: it promotes autonomy, stimulates independence, and strengthens self-esteem. Learn more.
5 Tips for Being a Proactive Person
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Don’t sit around waiting for things to happen; make them happen. This is the mantra of a proactive person. And while it sounds like an advertising slogan, we’re talking about one of the many ways to define what proactivity is.

Proactive behavior means taking charge of a situation and dealing with it; being ahead of the curve. The opposite is reactive behavior, where there’s only response and reaction.

Although it’s usually linked to the work or professional environment, being a proactive person is a highly valued quality in all aspects of life. Not only do we want to work with a person who’s always willing to take action and look for a solution, but we also like to meet up with friends who, when they feel like seeing you, organize a plan without making it complicated.

Recommendations for becoming a proactive person

To think that proactivity is a given attribute is almost the opposite of its very definition. Being a proactive person implies movement, non-conformity, and even a challenge to the status quo.

But in order to achieve this, you need to do something. Here are some recommendations you should take into account. Let’s take a look.

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1. Be organized and realistic

Proactivity goes hand in hand with organization. That’s why it’s important to know what our pending tasks are and establish priorities.

When thinking about what we have to do, we have to subdivide the tasks and link them with deadlines and actors. For example, there are things that depend on us (writing a report or cleaning the closet), but we can also find activities that depend on others. Therefore, their timing won’t necessarily coincide with ours.

Organization also implies setting realistic, clear, and measurable goals, so that we set a course and can check the degree of fulfillment or progress. To help us, nowadays, in addition to planners, we can use different applications.

A woman writing in her planner.
Organization contributes to proactivity. With planners, organizers, and applications we can be more efficient in the use of time.

2. Have a flexible, but not speculative, way of thinking.

Despite being organized, it’s also important to have flexibility. Sometimes situations arise that require urgent attention, so we have to be able to change our plans.

This also involves planning for setbacks and realistic deadlines. However, the ability to adapt isn’t the same as speculation. Thinking all the time in terms of “what ifs” only reinforces procrastination.

So, it’s best to start thinking about our thoughts and verify which of them fall into the field of excuses and which ones have real grounds for postponing the activity.

At the same time, it’s key that you put a brake on those thoughts that are judgmental and question your capacity. Why should I do such a thing if it’s going to go wrong? Why should I do it if nothing’s going to change? Pessimistic views are an obstacle to proactivity and discourage you from even getting started.

In cases where these thoughts are a permanent cognitive pattern that permeates all areas of life, it’s advisable to consult a professional. On the contrary, a proactive person is optimistic, positive, and believes that there are ways to improve.

3. Proactivity is also based on good habits

It’s not easy to be proactive if we’re tired and low on energy. That’s why it’s also important to take care of your overall health. Sufficient rest and leisure time, a balanced diet, and physical activity are all key. Only in this way will you be able to give your best.

4. Thinking about what you have and not what’s missing

Proactive people think in terms of the resources they have and what they can do with them. They don’t get bogged down in what they lack or about things they can’t do anything about. These are merely excuses used to justify inaction.

Likewise, people who cultivate a proactive mind are honest with themselves. They can recognize when they’re headed in the right direction and when they aren’t.

They’re able to take a look at themselves and understand what they need to change. In this sense, they’re also able to use suggestions and accept constructive criticism.

5. Set aside time and space for concentration

Being proactive implies that we can focus on what we’re doing, so it’s important that we find an environment in which we can connect with the task at hand and avoid wasting time and interruptions.

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The importance of proactivity for life

Proactivity is also linked to self-esteem. People who are more reactive remain stagnant, as in a permanent plateau, because although they may be able to respond, they won’t take initiative.

Likewise, proactivity allows you to have a certain degree of control over some situations, so there’s more security and confidence. When planning, tasks are also faced and carried out with less stress, as they already know what lies ahead. Those who are reactive often experience stress with their tasks because they leave them until the last minute.

Especially for group work or activities, proactivity goes hand in hand with participation. Therefore, those who are proactive tend to get involved and feel like they’re part of it.

Finally, proactivity facilitates the path to independence and autonomy, since proactive people take the lead and don’t need the approval of others to move forward. In the case of reactive people, they become dependent on the instructions or initiatives of others.

A woman sitting by a window crying.
The stress of pending and undelivered tasks is normal in workers who aren’t proactive.

Being proactive in the right measure

Like all things in life, proactivity’s positive when it’s balanced and doesn’t go to extremes. While it’s generally associated with satisfaction and productivity, it’s also true that when the burden isn’t well distributed, even a proactive and well-organized person ends up feeling stressed and burned out.

Let’s think of cases where a proactive person ends up overloaded with tasks because they’re always the one who takes the lead in every project. In this situation, far from favoring them, it becomes their Achilles heel.

It’s also important to recognize that proactivity has nuances. Being proactive doesn’t imply that we’ll be proactive in all areas. Some issues or activities will be harder for us than others.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Griffin, M., Parker, S., & Mason, C. (2010). Leader vision and the development of adaptive and proactive performance: A longitudinal study. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 174-182. doi:10.1037/a0017263
  • López- Salazar, Alejandra (2010). La proactividad empresarial como elemento de competitividad. Ra Ximhai, 6(2),303-312.[fecha de Consulta 11 de Abril de 2021]. ISSN: 1665-0441. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=46115146011
  • Salessi, Solana, & Omar, Alicia (2017). Comportamientos proactivos en el trabajo: una puesta al día. Revista Argentina de Ciencias del Comportamiento, 9(3),82-103.[fecha de Consulta 11 de Abril de 2021]. ISSN: . Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=333454618005

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.