what is this quality and how to develop it

what is this quality and how to develop it

Sometimes it seems that you and your colleagues in the team work in the same way, but it seems that the management’s attitude towards you manifests itself differently. What is corporate injustice or a global conspiracy? Maybe neither. Most often, a “more valuable colleague” for the company is a person who often offers ideas on how to improve work processes, independently solves the problems that arise, and does not wait for the team member to figure it out. Such employees are called proactive, they are ready to take responsibility and show initiative, so they get more returns in the end.

Below, we will reveal the concept of proactivity in more detail and talk about the advantages that this quality gives, as well as ways to develop it – with a list of useful materials on the topic.

Hello, Habre! My name is Anna Morozova, I am a specialist in the training department at MyOffice. Recently, our company held an educational marathon on the development of proactivity, where we, together with our employees, analyzed the importance of an active position in personal life and at work, learned about ways to pump up our initiative and took part in a 30-day challenge. In this article, I will share with you our insights and useful tools.

The importance of proactivity in personal and professional life

Proactive people are proactive and are not afraid to take responsibility for the result. These are usually the same employees who come up with a bunch of ideas at meetings and then enthusiastically take on their implementation, unlike skeptical colleagues who prefer to wait until it “sucks in”. Proactivity has many advantages:

  • Achieving goals. A proactive person tries to make every effort to achieve the set tasks. He is not stopped by possible difficulties, he perceives them as another springboard, and not as an impassable obstacle.

  • Comfort. The ability to think ahead and consider alternatives are useful skills for a comfortable, stress-free life even under conditions of uncertainty.

  • Emotional stability. One of the qualities of a proactive person is stable emotional reactions and lack of impulsivity, which often interferes with making balanced decisions.

  • Opportunities for career growth. Proactivity is highly valued by employers, as such employees are ready to take responsibility, effectively solve problems, and not invent reasons why this or that task could not be completed on time.

As you can see, there are enough reasons to become a proactive person – at least for your own comfort and fulfillment in life.

Proactivity VS Reactivity: Differences and Benefits

There is another type of people. They usually go with the flow and don’t even try to change anything. In their opinion, it is pointless to initiate changes, at least because the circumstances are stronger than them. They usually blame the stars, retrograde Mercury, the weather, or the villainous fate itself. Such people are called reactive.

Reactive employees prefer to remain silent in meetings, believing that no one is interested in their opinion anyway. And if they do come up with ideas, they immediately write them down in a deliberately unsuccessful way and do not voice them, so that they are not looked at askance, or even worse, they are not forced to implement them. It seems that it was reactive people who invented the phrase about punishing initiative. However, proactive people categorically disagree with this statement. In addition, initiative is usually welcomed by management – if it is in moderation, of course.

The difference between a proactive and a reactive employee is well illustrated by the parable of the 5-penny employee:

Circle of control, circle of influence and circle of concern

Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and business consultant, believed that determining whether a person is proactive or reactive can be determined by what they focus on – on circumstances beyond their control or on things they can change. To denote circumstances that are not within the sphere of influence of a particular person, Covey introduced the concept of “circle of concerns”. It can include, for example, the weather outside the window, the political situation in the country or the state of the economy. But the circle of influence includes everything that a person can change, including relationships with other people, the opinion and views of others.

According to Covey’s model, the circle of influence is inside the circle of concerns, and the more circumstances a person is willing to take under his control, the wider the circle of influence and the less space remains uncontrollable. This is proactivity – the ability to change circumstances to one’s advantage, and not to reflect on the complexity and injustice of the world.

In addition to the circles considered above, there is also a circle of control. These are all things that concern only ourselves – our decisions, our thoughts and emotions. We ourselves choose what to do in a specific situation and how to treat it.

Try to determine what is currently in your circle of worries. Write down everything that you cannot influence in any way. And what is included in your circle of influence? Remember, it’s about all the things you can change, even if it won’t be easy. For example, getting a promotion is a task from the circle of influence, and not the circle of concern, as it seems at first glance. You will not be able to force your superiors to promote you, but you will be able to convince them completely. For example, by learning important skills or training, which, by the way, is within your control, because only you decide whether to work on yourself or not.


C++ developer in MyOffice

The information about proactivity was well chosen in the marathon. The topic is popular, but usually not well covered. And here it was short, clear and useful! I especially liked the advice “If something doesn’t work out, find a person around you who does, analyze for some reason and try to repeat it.” The use of circles of influence made the path to the goal clearer and simpler. And information about how to present my ideas was useful for me.

How to pump proactivity

There is still no exact answer to the question of what proactivity is — a personality trait or a skill. Some people seem to be proactive, determined and ready to take responsibility by themselves – perhaps because they have been instilling this quality since childhood thanks to their parents. And someone has to make efforts to develop these qualities and become proactive. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Shift the focus of attention. You should not transfer responsibility for your life to fate, the government or higher forces. Focus on what you can do to make it the way you want it to be, not on why something happened or didn’t happen to you.

  • Show initiative. Stop believing the dubious claim that initiative is punishable. Don’t be afraid to offer ideas, this is your chance to express yourself.

  • Take mistakes as experience. Firstly, this is an indicator that you did not sit back, but acted, and secondly, mistakes are valuable experience. The main thing is not to reflect on them for too long, but to draw the right conclusions.

  • Competently set priorities. The ability to focus on what is important and not get distracted by the trivial is another skill of proactive people. Therefore, learn how to use your time, energy, and resources wisely to achieve your goals. You can start with planning, the Eisenhower matrix will help with this, with the help of which you can determine the priority of tasks.

  • Be like those who succeeded. There are many examples of successful people around. I am willing to bet that most of their success is due to their tenacity and unwillingness to give up. You are no worse.

  • Learn to anticipate risks. As they say, you have to believe in the best, but prepare for the worst. Try to think in advance what difficulties there may be when solving a particular task and how to deal with these difficulties. An elementary example of proactivity is to look at the weather forecast before leaving the house and take an umbrella with you if there is a promise of rain.

Stephen Covey’s method of developing proactivity

Stephen Covey was one of the first to see proactivity as a skill that can be developed. Previously, this term was used only in psychology for those personality traits. At the same time, Covey noted that this skill is the most important of all necessary for a successful person.

And now a small exercise according to the method of Stephen Covey. It will allow not only to develop proactivity, but also to do something that you have wanted for a long time, but have been putting off all the time. So, you need 30 days to reach your goal, a piece of paper and some willpower.

  1. Draw two circles according to the Covey scheme – one inside the other. Or use a ready-made template (see illustration above).

  2. Formulate a task that you will work on for the next month.

  3. In the outer circle, mark all the distracting factors and circumstances that can prevent you from achieving your goal.

  4. In the inner circle, indicate what you will do to accomplish the task and how you will overcome the obstacles formulated in the outer circle.

  5. Act. Concentrate on tasks in the inner circle, trying not to pay attention to distractions. Remember, you only have to last a month. It’s not that much if you think about it.

  6. Analyze. If after a month you were able to achieve your goal, then you can be proud of yourself. If the circumstances were able to lead you astray, do not be upset, but think about why this happened and what you lacked to achieve your goal. Next time you will definitely succeed.


System engineer at MyOffice

I guess I agree with Covey that being proactive is one of the most important skills right now. If you concentrate on the task and understand the factors that distract you, you can really roll mountains. The information I received at the marathon made me think seriously, and the recommendations and stories of my colleagues in the chat helped me make significant progress with my personal tasks and plans.


Proactivity is one of the most important skills of a successful person and highly effective employee. Initiative, the ability to calculate steps in advance and the willingness to take responsibility for one’s decisions allow one to confidently go to the goal, despite difficulties. At the same time, it is not scary if at first it is difficult to call you a proactive person. You just need a little more effort and time to develop these qualities. But difficult does not mean impossible.

And as always, we share with you a list of additional materials that will help you delve deeper into the topic.


  • Stephen Covey “7 Skills of Highly Effective People”

  • Waldschmidt Dan “Be the best version of yourself. How ordinary people become remarkable”

  • Blumenthal Brett One habit a week. Change yourself in a year”

  • John Miller Proactive Thinking. How simple questions can dramatically change your work and life”



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