What does it mean to be “proactive”?

take the proactive approach two people in a canoe paddling across still water

Is it busyness? Just for extroverts? Not for me?

When people say to us “be more proactive,” it can feel like we’re being shoved in a direction we don’t want to go. And to a certain extent, that’s true: inertia has set in, there’s a routine to break, and we’ll probably need to step outside our comfort zone.

But being proactive doesn’t mean rushing helter-skelter with no goal in mind. It means creating a plan and taking action toward it. It’s when we look at our lives and say: “what do I want, and how do I get there?”

You want to be an artist, but your work schedule leaves you with limited time. So you look up evening classes at the local community college. You find an art group for feedback and support. You dedicate a certain number of hours every week toward your craft.

You’ve just started college and would like to travel, but your course of studies doesn’t offer an exchange program. So you take on an extra job during the school year and save up enough money to travel for a month in the summer.

You’re a young mom with another child on the way, and you’re feeling the call to become a doctor. You establish a support network with your family and community and start studying for the MCAT.

You have a dream, but at every turn you encounter challenges. You don’t give up. You handle those challenges one by one until you’ve overcome them. And even if you feel alone, you’re not forging your own path as much as you think. Others have gone before you, and if you look out for them they can help you on your way.

That’s what it means to take the proactive approach.

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.