The #1 Way to Take Control of Your Emotions
If I asked a group of people to define “proactive,” I would probably get a wide variety of responses such as: taking initiative, anticipating, preparing for, or taking control of. But, to be proactive, as Dr. Stephen R. Covey defines it, is to respond to any given situation based on values, instead of emotions.
External conditions can influence you, but they don’t determine you.
Being proactive is more than just taking action or initiative. It’s recognizing, as humans, we have the unique capability to choose our response in any given situation. As Dr. Covey states, “Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.”
That’s powerful – because it means regardless of what happens to you in life, you have the ability, and responsibility, to decide what you will think. How you think determines what you feel. How you feel determines what you do. What you do determines the results you get in life. The opposite of proactive is reactive, which means empowering something else to control you. Reactive people allow their physical environment, or external conditions, to control how they feel. They allow what happens on the outside to dictate how they feel on the inside.
External conditions can influence you, but they don’t determine you. Life will happen. It won’t always be easy, good, or fun. You might get sick. You may lose your job, get divorced, or lose a loved one. I hope your story isn’t like mine, one of years of sexual abuse as a teenager. But, I’m certain you have or will experience adversity in life. We all do.
When we are proactive, we greatly increase the amount of influence we have with other people.
Being proactive means choosing your response to what happens based on your values, instead of reacting based on your emotions. We’ve probably all made the mistake of blowing up in a situation, getting mad, and saying or doing something we later regret. We’ve probably all experienced a time when we empowered ourselves, rather than allowing something or someone else, to dictate our response. Maybe you’ve seen a friend or loved one who is terminally ill, suffering greatly, or handicapped, and yet rises above their circumstances with a positive spirit and incredible strength. It’s not easy to do, but it does get easier the more you do it.
When we are proactive, we greatly increase the amount of influence we have with other people. Our ability to lead at a high level increases exponentially when we can first lead and influence ourselves well.
Years ago, I was searching for a candidate to fill an open position in my department at work. After many resumes, several interviews, and several months of searching, I found an extremely qualified woman with relevant experience. She was a perfect fit for the position, was from out of town, and was relocating to be close to her future husband. We hired her.
A few weeks after she started work, she and I sat down together for a one-on-one training session. Uncharacteristically, she was disengaged during the session. Finally, realizing we weren’t accomplishing anything, I pushed the computer screen away asking her what was on her mind.
“I’m not sure I can keep working here,” she replied, breaking down into tears. “My fiancé broke up with me because he was seeing someone else. I am thinking about moving back home since we aren’t getting married.”
I was floored. After months of searching, rounds of interviews, and no small expense, I had gone to great lengths to hire her, train her, and now I was probably going to lose her. It would take several more months to replace her. I had about half a second to choose my response. I could be reactive based on my feelings of frustration and disappointment, or I could be proactive based on my values of helping her make the right decision for herself and respecting her trust and confidence in me. I replied, “Whatever decision you need to make regarding moving back home or staying here, I will support you. If you decide to leave, I will give you a good reference based on your time here. If you decide to stay, I’ll be happy to have you. You need to think about what is best for you right now. If this job isn’t the answer, I’ll help you find another one back home.”
That wasn’t easy to say. I really wanted her to stay. But, I was able to be proactive. I realized, if she knew I supported her and cared about her either way, she would make the best decision for herself. If she made the best decision for herself, it would be the best decision, in the long run, for me and the organization. She chose to stay.
If being proactive is a challenge for you, look for ways to start being proactive in small ways. If your order gets messed up at the restaurant, remember everyone makes mistakes. You aren’t perfect either. If you make a mistake at work, don’t get angry. Search for the lesson in it. When it’s raining, smile anyway. If your 16 year old daughter gets pregnant out of wedlock, choose to love her more.
Start by being proactive with small things, and the big things will become easier. Your influence with anyone and everyone will grow over time.
Like many, Ria faced adversity in life. Ria was sexually abused by her father from age 12 – 19, forced to play the role of his wife, and even shared with other men. Desperate to escape, she left home at 19 without a job, a car, or even a high school diploma.
Today, Ria is a motivational leadership speaker, TEDx Speaker, and author of 10 books. Ria shares powerful leadership principles and tools of transformation from her journey to equip and empower women, helping them realize, optimize, and maximize their leadership potential.