About 5% of people on the world are proactive by nature. The other 95% are procrastinators. It is no small feat to overcome procrastinating and become (more) proactive. Yet this is one of the main things that separates successful people from the rest.
But that is just half of the story. Obviously the 95% of people who are not by nature proactive, should aim to become so. But proactivity alone is just the beginning. If it is not combined with thinking, it will lead to nothing.
Are you an acter or a thinker?
People can be divided into 2 categories. Those whose first reaction is to think about something, and those whose first reaction is to act on something. The latter group is the 5% who is proactive.
Whether you fall into the group of thinkers or acters is rather easy to determine. Just imagine someone comes up to you with a business proposal. This can be anything. What is your first reaction?
If you’re an acter you’d probably make your decision as an impulse. And immediately get to work. If you’re a thinker you’d probably ask a couple of questions to create a pro/con list, to determine whether this is a good idea.
Why you need to both acter and thinker
Which category of people you fall into, only determines what your starting point is. The hard part is that you need to learn the other skill. If you act without thinking about it, you will just make the same mistake over and over again. If you think without acting, you will think of the greatest ideas … but they never come to be, because that needs action!
Thinking and acting have a certain rythm to them:
Think of the pattern as a walking pattern. If you are inside a room, choose 2 locations. One location represents the ‘Thinking’ spot, the other the ‘Taking action’ spot. When you think about something you are in the thinking spot. If you then take action, you are basically moving from the thinking spot to the taking action spot. And vice-versa.
This is the pattern we all travel, between thinking and taking action. Whether you are a thinker or an acter determines in which spot you feel most secure. You are comfortable there. For example, I am a thinker by nature, so I feel quite comfortable thinking decisions through. Instead of taking action.
My business partner is an acter by nature, who always takes action. This is what he feels comfortable with. We both had to learn how to use the other side of the pattern… He had to learn to use his thinking to supplement his acting, while I had to act to supplement my thinking!
The usual patterns
The usual patterns don’t look like the pattern in the last section… Rather they look more like the image below, if we picture the pattern as a moving pattern:
Acters spent almost all of their time in the doing area of the pattern, while thinkers spent most their time in the thinking part. Both have great hesitations to leave their location, and don’t remain in the other location for very long, if at all.
The goal is to get balance between the two locations. So that moving away from a location feels as safe as moving towards it.
Taking the first step towards balance
It is hard to get out of your comfort zone. But that is exactly what you should be doing: move to the location that is not your normal behaviour. So the first thing to do is become aware of the fact that there is a different behaviour that is possible in any given situation. And it differs from your instinct!
There are always 2 ways to go to the other spot. Before you act on your instinct, or after. Moving before your instinctive reaction is hardest, but you will learn the process faster. I recommend this.
For thinkers the best way to do something is to simply revert to ‘gut feeling’ when it comes to a decision. Give yourself no longer than 1 second (yes that is short) to decide. As soon as you notice yourself thinking, making a pro/con list, etc, you need to make the decision immediately.
Usually you will lean to a certain decision and thinking only increases your own belief that this is the right decision. So just pick it instantly next time.
Alternatively, you can postpone the acting part a little. This means you do the acting after a little bit of thinking. Just set a timeframe to make your decision in and stick to it. For example, agree with yourself to decide tomorrow at noon. And hold your promise!
For acters the impulse is to act, so their biggest challenge is to not jump into anything. As soon as an opportunity presents itself, keep yourself from making a decision. Promise yourself you will postpone the decision to noon tomorrow. And, again, keep your promise!
Alternatively, if you have acted, you can use thinking retrospectively. This means that after you have acted, you reflect back on the process. Think about what you did, why, what the concequences are, etc.
Once you achieve balance
Once you have achieved balance in this pattern, there is one more step to take. That step is to increase the speed with which you go through the pattern. If you want to visualize this, it is moving the two positions closer to each other.
The idea here is that you can very quickly switch between thinking, and doing. There is no real trick here, as long as you are aware of the fact that you can increase the speed, it will happen automatically!