Monday, April 2, 2012

The Case for a Proactive Life

Every now and then I write a little about things that are not so super feminist but more a glimpse into my life and how I view things.

And often those topics are on the negative side of things--like how I struggle with stress, obligation, and over-thanking. But today I just wanted to take a moment to get out a few other things I've been thinking about when it comes to generally creating a better life for one's self.

Basically what I think it all boils down to is proactivity. Being proactive is a lesson that I think everyone could stand to learn, but particularly women. I went ahead and looked up the dictionary definition of proactive to make my point. It means, "acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes." This stands in contrast to being reactive or passive. In the case of reaction, you are simply responding to something that has already occurred. And with passivity, you are just letting things occur.

It should be pretty clearly by now why I think women in particular should embrace proactivity, but just in case, here's the deal. Often women and girls are socialized to take a back seat in their own lives. We are taught to defer decision making onto our male counterparts. We are taught that we are the ones who are rescued. We are taught to not worry our pretty little heads with concerns like politics or money management. However, the truth is that each of us only have our selves to rely on, so to be proactive is, to use a cliche, to take control of your own destiny; to place a high enough value on your own happiness and future that you make the calls.

Here are just a few things I think are relevant to this, that I try to weave into my day-to-day.

-Make decisions intentionally: Being proactive means that you do things thoughtfully, which includes being very intentional about your decision making. It's basically thinking, "Is this what I really want? Is it actually best for me?" This seems so simple, but I never cease to be amazed that so many people live their lives without actually stopping to consider the ramifications of their decisions.

-Advocate for yourself: To be truly proactive, you're going to have to speak up for what you want and need. It's not always easy, but since when was doing the right thing ever easy? Besides, let me ask you this: If you don't speak up for yourself, who will?

-Have a long view: I'm a planner by nature, but I'll also be the first to tell you that plans often go awry. Nevertheless, to be truly intentional about your life, you do need some sort of guidepost by which you can measure your progress. Otherwise, how will you know what the heck you should even be doing?

-If you don't have your word what do you have? This is a phrase that I live by and say a lot. Probably a bit too much. But I really, really believe it. If you give your word to something (you say you'll do something, be somewhere, commit to a thing) then you damn well better make good on it. Here's where the proactive-ness ties in, if you are a proactive person who has thought through things, then you will only make commitments that you can really keep. Which means you'll get comfortable with saying no, and that, as I've mentioned before, can be a huge skill for women to develop.

-Push yourself: Sometimes the right thing for you might not come naturally. Take me as an example, if I don't push myself, my default is to be a bit of a lazy homebody. But those are not situations in which I actually thrive. So I need to anticipate the necessity to push myself to do the things which make me feel better.

-Listen to your gut: To stand in direct contrast to what I just said, sometimes the right things for you are the ones which come naturally. These are the moments when it's important to listen to your gut and trust your intuition. I know that it can be incredibly difficult to know when to push yourself vs. when to listen to your gut, but just keep both things in mind and through trial and error you'll figure it out. Or I should say, you'll get closer to figuring it out, because trust me, it can be a work in progress for a long, long time. But basically anything is better than being passive, reactive, or thoughtless.

-Be kind to yourself: This is huge and something we could all stand to do. Besides if being proactive is about having a better life, feeling more in control, and valuing yourself, it can't hurt to remember that the overall goal is a happier you. So play nice. Do things and surround yourself with people who that make you feel great.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you said both, pushing yourself and listening to your gut. I think we hear both of these things from different sources and start to doubt one or both. Both can be correct and, yes, it is trial and error. So true.


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