“Here, hold my beer.”
– Irresponsible drunk guys everywhere
This is the perfect introduction to today’s subject: consequences and mistakes. Let’s get right to it.
As any person alive could tell you, choosing to do something doesn’t necessarily mean choosing for the consequences attached to this action. The proactive person knows however that by choosing to commit to something, you must commit to the consequences as well, unknown as they might be. If you don’t, you’re just denying reality. As the late Stephen Covey puts it: You can’t pick up one side of the stick without also picking up the other side.
There are two types of consequences, of which only one I will discuss here:
- Good consequences
- Bad consequences
People have no trouble accepting good consequences. (Just beware not to confuse luck with skill.) If you buy a ticket to the lottery, and you win a prize, you’ll happily accept the winnings. It’s the bad consequences that require something more. Bad consequences lead to regret of the choice taken. “I should never have bought those lottery tickets. Those are 25 bucks I’ll never see again. Now I’ll have to drink old milk for breakfast, instead of ordering that rye-apricot-spinach-smoothie I normally have on Thursday.”
The thing is, you can’t change the past. You can’t change the consequences of the choice you made. So you’ll have to deal with it. How, you ask me?
- Accepting the consequences
- Learning from what happened
- Correcting behaviour that led to the choice made
- Moving on
I know it sounds very simple in theory, and that it’s hard as hell in practice. There’s nothing you or I can do about that. It’s the only way to deal with bad consequences (or the past for that matter). So, better get to it. If you don’t, you’re making a mistake.
If you’ve been reading my last few blog posts, you know that proactive people create their own circumstances. They know that everything that’s happened, is happening and will happen to you is your own responsibility, and you have the freedom to react to that as you want to. This means that not accepting the consequences of something you’ve done is the result of an (un)conscious decision you’ve made. Which is the real mistake.
Not accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions, means you put the responsibility somewhere else. The solution isn’t in you, it’s someone or something else’s fault. (Quite a reactive thought, wouldn’t you say?) You don’t accept the consequences, you don’t learn, you don’t correct, and you don’t move on. You’re not the person you could’ve been. And at some level, you know it. That gnaws on you.
Suffice to say it’s unpleasant. It hurts you psychologically and in your personal growth. There’s only one way to fix this: face it. At any time you can make the choice to accept the consequences after all. If you do, you’ll start moving forward again.
Improve your proactivity
Now that you’ve accepted, learned from and moved on from all your mistakes, it’s time to take more control over your own life. There are two ways to do this:
- Making and keeping appointments
- Setting goals and working towards them
These are at the core of your Circle of Influence. You have full control over what kinds of appointment you make and with whom, be it with others or with yourself. Of course, making appointments is the easy part; actually committing yourself, doing the work is the hard part.
The essence of proactivity
Read well, for this is the essence of proactivity en personal growth. We make appointments and promises and set goals for ourselves. We keep these promises. This makes our characters stronger, we become stronger as persons. Our characters are the things for which we are responsible, and which allows us to make every positive thing in our lives possible.
So, it’s recognizing what you have to do to succeed in your own life, and actively working towards it that gives you full control over your life. This trains you to choose your values over your fusses and fits.
It’s hard, I can’t deny it. But everybody can do this. If you’re struggling, just remember to start with little steps. Do something easy and have a small success. This will give you the confidence and motivate you to try something a little bit bigger. If you fail, don’t worry about it, it’s just a small thing. Just go and try again.
You have full control over your amount of knowledge, skills and wishes. You can work on them, train them, evolve them. Do so, and you will grow as a person as well.
Isn’t that what we all want?
End of an era
This will be the last part in my series on proactivity. What a ride it’s been. I’ve been working on and researching this subject since November last year. I’ve read articles, watched video’s, talked to my friends and colleagues about it, blogged about it and created a workshop about it. Is this the end? For proactivity, it is, for now. There are enough other soft skills I can improve in though, so I’m going to take some time and decide what my next step will be.
I have to be honest about it, it feels good to finish this project. It has cost me a lot of time and effort. More about that next week.
Talk to you later!
Read the previous three blog posts on proactivity: