proactive behavior

How to Live Life Intentionally with Proactive Behavior

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Are you looking to learn how to live life intentionally? Do you want to take action, reach your goals, and find success in your life? In this post, you’ll learn how to live life intentionally, learn how to think proactively, and read about a 5 step plan for success in life.

Are you in control of your life, or are you just letting life pass you by? Are you living intentionally, or living unintentionally? Does life happen for you, or does life happen to you?

One of the most effective ways to take control of your life is through intentional living and proactive behavior.

I try to practice proactive behavior in all parts of my life – trying to play catch up is stressful and takes away from getting after my goals and dreams.

Instead of reacting to situations, I prefer to wake up and try to do what I want to do with my life.

By proactively thinking about what to do next, I can make a plan for my life and then take action towards my goals.

Doesn’t it feel good to set your own schedule and do what matters to you, instead of following someone else’s schedule and dreams?

Luckily, becoming more intentional and forward thinking in your behavior and actions isn’t too difficult.

In this post, I will share some tips on how you can take control of your life through intentional actions, how you can live life intentionally, and how to use proactive thinking to make smart decisions.

First, let’s talk about intentional living.

“You have complete control over the direction that the rest of your life takes.” – Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

setting goals and dreamsWhat is Intentional Living and Why is Living Intentionally Important?

Before talking about proactive behavior, let’s talk about intentional living.

What is intentional living?

Intentional living is living your life in a way you have consciously decided to live it.

Living intentionally involves coming up with dreams, goals and a plan, and living out that plan. In addition, these plans and goals are usually informed by your values and beliefs.

Put simply, intentional living is living the kind of life that is meaningful to you, and makes you feel like every day matters.

Unintentional living is the opposite of intentional living.

Unintentional living is going through life without a plan, letting life happen to you, and not taking control of your situation.

Days, weeks and months can pass by if you don’t live intentionally, and this is where proactive behavior comes in.

proactive behaviorWhat is the Difference between Proactive and Reactive Behavior?

What is proactive behavior?

Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen.

Proactive people generally do not need to be asked to act, nor do they require detailed instructions. Proactive people practice intentional living.

Reactive behavior involves acting after an event occurs, rather than acting in advance of the event. It means waiting for something to happen, rather than making something happen.

Why are some people reactive in their behavior? What would happen if they changed started practicing proactive behaviors? Would they take control of their life and achieve wild success?

Your philosophy creates your attitudes, which create your actions, which create your results, which create your life.” – Jeff Olson

People who are successful in life are proactive and make things happen.

Proactive behavior helps you take control of your life by making intentional choices about what you want your life to look like, and following through with your behavior to make that life vision a reality.

Not only does this lead to a positive end result, but it encourages personal growth along the way as you navigate and problem-solve.

win with moneyWhat are Some Examples of Proactive Thinking and Behavior?

Now that you know what proactive thinking and proactive behavior is, now let’s talk about some examples of proactive thinking.

Proactive behavior is all about living life intentionally and with purpose.

One part of life which is very important to be proactive in is your personal finances.

Part of living life to the fullest is having a handle on your personal finances.

Only 39% of people have $1,000 saved up in the United States. With $1,000 or more in the bank, the stress of an immediate emergency decreases.

This $1,000 can be saved with planning ahead and taking control of your financial life.

A Stressful Time Caused by Reactive Behavior

A few years ago, I was house hacking and had 2 roommates.

One of them was a great guy but was very reactive in his nature. He is someone who loves to get out in the world and do things with his time and money.

Being a part of a few different sports teams and going out on the weekends, I didn’t know the exact nature of his finances, but given his struggles to pay me on time for monthly rent, I could tell he was paycheck to paycheck.

At the time, he had a decent job, and from a simple Google search, was probably in the $40,000 salary range.

With this sort of salary, I would have hoped with a $700 monthly rent payment, he could not be living paycheck to paycheck, but after some bad luck, it was a certainty.

During the Spring, playing kickball, he ended up breaking his hand and with this must have came a significant hospital bill.

“I’ll pay you the 10th after I get paid.”

I wasn’t going to kick him out for being late, but I had a lot of thoughts on the situation.

Saving Money is Possible Through Intentional Actions and Proactive Behavior

Make no mistake, bad luck happens to the best of us.

At the same time, with planning and proactive behavior, what if he had $1,000 saved up to help deal some of his expenses?

As a single and employed Millennial, saving $83 a month for 12 months is certainly doable to get to $1,000.

Double that saving from $83 to $166, and in 12 months, you are approaching $2,000 in savings.

This is just one example of how proactive behavior and intentional living will lead to success.

Let’s think a little bigger now, talk about questions and your dream life, and discuss about how you can apply the practice of proactive behavior in your life for success.

“Try not to become a person of success, but a person of value.” – Albert Einstein

intentional livingTwo Questions to Answer for Creating a Great Life

First, a principle: without questionsthere are no answers.

Figuring out your dream life or my dream life can’t be solved without breaking it down into smaller questions which get at the core of who you are, how you enjoy your time, and what you like to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

I believe there are two question sets which will get you started towards creating your dream life. The first part of the two sets of questions is:

When are you most happiest and what are you doing when you are experiencing this joy?

This is a simple question. When do you feel happiest? What activity or thing are you doing which brings the happiness?

For me, happiness comes from creation and helping others. I love creating content, building things, and solving problems. If life was a huge puzzle, I’d love it (which it kind of is, but the pieces are constantly changing 🙂 )

Happiness also comes from doing things on my own terms and having the freedom to create what I want when I want.

The second part of this set of questions is:

How often are you able to do these activities, and what’s holding you back from experiencing them whenever you’d like?

If you are already doing what makes you happy all the time (from the first question), then the second question doesn’t really make sense.

In my opinion, life is all about pushing towards doing what makes you happiest and understanding that while today might not be where you want to be, over time you can get there.

In my situation, I don’t have the level of savings and/or passive income to be helping others and creating what I want, when I want.

At this point in my life, I go to a corporate job at 8 AM and leave after 5 PM. While I’m making great money, there’s still an entrepreneurial itch which is always in the back of my head.

Currently, I’m working on building up my savings with the intent to move to something more flexible in the next year or two. We will see, but it’s a work in progress and that’s okay.

Things can change and I’m going to stay patient. I can influence this through my actions, but whatever happens is meant to happen and should be accepted.

Over time, I’ll get to where I want and need to be, and I hope you will as well.

Now that you have these thoughts in your head, below are 5 concrete steps for you to take control of your life and live intentionally.

5 Steps to Take Control of Your Life and Become Great

When beginning to think ahead about your life, your family, your job, your business, etc., we first need to start with questions and goals.

First, let’s identify what you want with your life.

We both only have one life and limited time. In my life, I want to be doing things I enjoy and that are bringing joy to the people around me.

After understanding your goals and dreams, then it’s time to come up with a game plan, and take bold action.

With this plan, you will be living life intentionally and proactively. Through your proactive behavior, you’ll be on the way to reaching your goals.

Here are 5 steps for intentional living taking control of your life through proactive behavior, and creating a great life for yourself this year:

1. Identify Your Goals and Dreams

What are your goals? What makes you happiest? Where do you want to be in 1 year?

As we discussed in the last section, there is a lot that goes into answering these difficult questions.

However, with a picture of what you want, you can start to work towards your dream life and ideal situation.

Split your goals, thoughts, and dreams into multiple buckets:

  • social
  • financial
  • spiritual
  • physical
  • emotional
  • work
  • fun

Some example questions for you may be:

  • Do you want to get a promotion or change in responsibilities at work?
  • Would you want more money in the bank?
  • Are you looking to retire earlier than 65?
  • Would you be happy if your business made an extra $1,000 a month?
  • Do you want to be able to take more vacations with your family?
  • Are you looking to start a new hobby?
  • What things stress you out?
  • Do you want to lose 10 pounds?

After asking yourself these questions, KEEP GOING! Let your powerful brain do some more work!

After getting some answers to the questions which matter to your situation, now it’s time to work backwards.

You are trying to create a great life for yourself and these questions will help you form a more concrete image of that life for before you create your action plan for success.

2. Create a Happiness Game Plan

You know your goals, now it’s time to come up with a game plan.

You have your dream. What do you have to do to MAKE it happen?

Let’s take the example of losing 10 pounds.

If you want to lose 10 pounds, it’s time for more questions. Let’s see how this line of thinking plays out:

  • How is a person’s weight determined?
    • A person’s weight is determined through a number of factors, but changes come from daily habits and a simple equation: calories in minus calories out.
  • If weight changes come from calories in minus calories out, then how do I decrease this amount for myself?
    • First, what does this equation look like for you today? What gets measured, gets managed!
  • After measuring where you are at on a daily basis, are you in a calorie surplus or calorie deficit?
    • To lose weight, how can you decrease the surplus and increase this deficit in a healthy way? (exercise, diet, fasting, etc.)

After you’ve asked and answered these questions for yourself (and there are probably 3+ more levels to go if you want to go that deep), again KEEP GOING!

Let your powerful brain and body work towards your goals and dreams!

After coming up with your game plan for success and happiness, it’s now time to take ACTION.

proactive living3. Be Intentional in Life and Take Action

It’s great to know what you have to do, but if you never take action, you will never achieve your goals and dreams.

Intentional living is all about taking action and working on bettering your life situation.

Sitting on the couch and watching Netflix is fun and relaxing, but it probably won’t lead to a very fulfilling life.

Taking action involves getting out and into the world.

Start today with your actions and live intentionally. You’ll be pleased as you start to see your dream life come to fruition.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-Tzu

“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Be Consistent With Your Actions

Humans overestimate what they can do in a day, but underestimate what they can do in a year.

Have you ever started on your goals only to stop? Did you end up reaching your goal?

Each day, if you can spend at least 10 minutes working towards your goals, you’ll be amazed at your progress.

At the end of one year, you will have spent 3650 minutes, or 60 hours. 

60 hours over a year? How much closer to your goals would you be after 60 hours?

That’s the power of consistency. Consistent actions over time WILL lead to massive success.

living with intention5. Reassessing and Tweaking Your Game Plan Over Time

From time to time, you will need to see if you are still on track.

I stay accountable to myself monthly. You can do a personal check-in weekly, monthly, or every few months. It’s up to you.

If you aren’t on track, make the necessary changes to your actions and daily habits to ensure you are working towards your goals.

It’s okay if you realize you aren’t on track; this doesn’t mean you failed.

All this setback means is you now have the opportunity to pick back up where you left off and keep getting better!

Just because you eat one unhealthy meal doesn’t mean your whole healthy eating plan is ruined. It just means you ate one unhealthy meal. You can always continue eating healthy for your next meal, and it will in fact be beneficial.

This outlook works for every part of life.

Being self aware on your path to the life you want and deserve will help tremendously.

Living an intentional life requires patience and understanding, and also will require some flexibility.

The life you want won’t happen in a day, but over time, through tweaks and consistency, you’ll get there. 🙂

Welcome Success by Becoming Proactive and Living Intentionally

You have the keys to your life. It is up to you to unlock your full potential and lead a great life. Through proactive behavior, you can take control of your life and create the success you crave.

Planning, strategy, or thinking ahead are examples of proactive behavior, and with these thoughts, you will become more successful than the day before.

Things take time and a level of patience will be required. At the end of the day, through proactive behavior and having a plan, you will be where you are supposed to be in the next few months.

Start with your goals and asking questions. Continue asking questions until you’ve formed a plan for the actions which should set you up for success.

With this post, you now know how to live life intentionally, how to use proactive thinking and proactive behavior to set goals, and how to create a plan for success.

Get after it and make sure to update me on your fantastic progress! 🙂

“Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.” – Hal Elrod

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Readers: Do you take a proactive approach to life? Are you in control of your life? What is stopping you from achieving your goals and dreams?

5 Steps to Take to Control Your Life


5 Steps to Take to Control Your Life
5 Steps to Take to Control Your Life
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Comments 34

  1. Wow, I found your blog from your comment on mine and I love this post!

    I sometimes myself struggle with thoughts like your roommates. But for 2017 I have taken on the challenge of having a mindset much like yours. I cannot control things that I cannot control, and if I can be proactive I am always more pleasant to be around and do not feel so stressed out.

    I used to work and am still guilty of it some 80+ hours weeks! I get draining always playing catch up. But I also know I will have many passive income streams soon and that will help.

    Either way awesome post and I admire your take on life!

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      Thanks TGB for stopping by and the compliment. It’s very interesting how some people feel like they are a victim of their environment.

      Have a good one!

  2. This is my favorite post of yours so far, Erik. “Proactive” and “reactive”. You hit the nail on the head. We can either be the “head” or the “tail” in our lives. Above our circumstances, or beneath them. We can’t control everything, but we can control how we prepare for and adapt to everything. Great post.

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  3. Sorry to hear about your roommate struggling. Continue to be a positive role model and he may see the light, but he won’t until he’s ready.

    I’m in so much agreement with your 5 steps and enjoy reading about your goals and progression with them.

    Usually (probably always), the only thing that stops us from achieving our goals and dreams is ourselves.

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      Hey Amy, thanks for commenting and I appreciate your support. I’m glad that you decide to read and help grow the community here at The Mastermind Within 🙂

  4. I agree with Laurie. I think this is my favorite post on your site as well. I liked the vulnerability and the candidness of the conversation. It felt very real and authentic. Keep up the great work. I am always excited to see what you guys do.

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  5. Your roommate sounds like he is still in that phase of existence that a lot of us get stuck in – waiting for things to happen. There’s a great quote by Thomas Edison that goes “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Sometimes we have to try harder and be smarter about keeping our eyes open. There’s a lot out there to appreciate if we just learn to recognize it.

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  6. I’m not one of them but many of the best minds in the philosophical world actually believe that we are NOT in control of our lives. This is the free will vs determinism debate. If you google Sam Harris Free Will you can find the basics of the arguments.

    I struggled with this for awhile because there is no way to prove free will exists. I basically came to the conclusion that even if free will does not exist it is still more moral to believe it does.

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      Hm, interesting points you make Grant. I just googled Sam Harris and wow. Essentially, we don’t have free will because we don’t have control over all the factor that could affect our thoughts and actions. Given the definitions he lays out, then sure, I agree with him, but I think his definition goes a little too far in saying we need to have control over ALL factors. Is this similar to your thoughts on the subject?

      Here’s the point I tried to make above: There are many things you can’t control and many people worry about these things. My point is not to worry about the things you can’t control – instead focus on what you can control and push forward.

      1. No this is not my view. I believe we do have free will and are in control of our lives. To believe that we are just robots running towards a predetermined end point is depressing. I brought it up as an interesting alternative view point that has interrupted several nights of sleep for me.

        I actually completely agree with you and think the advice you gave is fantastic.

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          Oh, I apologize, I wasn’t saying that that was your view. I understood that you were just bringing up the point as a counter argument 🙂

          The way my response reads, I can see why it might be a little confusing. Anyway, thanks for sharing the different view and I’m glad we straightened it out!

  7. This is incredible, Erik! Seriously gives me so much to think about!

    While I certainly do feel in control of my life, I would love to share this with others because I believe there are plenty of people who THINK they’re in control of their life, but are actually reactive, not proactive.

    That being said, I would be lying if I said every action I take is proactive. However, I think setting goals and figuring out how to achieve them, while acknowledging your missteps and flaws, is the best way to remain proactive and in control. I think accepting blame and recognizing why you’re not achieving goals is just as helpful as setting them!

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      Hey Courtney, thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      I was listening to a podcast a while back (I don’t remember which one) that was saying people will purposely not address an issue or problem because the act of NOT doing the action makes them feel in control. It was an interesting way to think about it.

      Have a good one, please do share! 🙂

  8. Following through with my goals is tough. I will say it’s easier since meeting my wife (I was 28 years old) since she’s my accountability partner, so to speak. We don’t share every goal together but once a month or so we talk about life. Financially, personally, professionally.

    Seeing others be proactive has also helped motivate us to be proactive too.

  9. Great post. We probably all have a friend like that. There is a ton in life we can’t control so we just need to be proactive and focus on the items we can control. Having a positive outlook on life will have an enormous effect on your overall well being too. It will help you reduce stress, be more productive, confident, and people will take notice. Life is too short so we need to make the best of it. Thanks for sharing.

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      Thanks for the comment Dividend Daze. I definitely agree with you that being positive is a great trait to have!

  10. Incredible topic and one you dig deep into. Per usual an incredible insightful article, as it addresses our own thoughts and analysis! Am currently in Albergue in Northern Spain listening to Mozart reading The Art of MotorCycle Maintenance (by Robert M. Pirsig). Thinking am a I being proactive or reactive in my choices to leave USB and pursue my own ambition and beliefs. The beauty of any situation is are perfect where ever we are just our future can be some what controlled by the choices we make in the present! 🙂 Excited to
    Share some life insights and experiences with you and the Mastermindwithin audience and applause the beautiful posts you continue to put out! Life is a learning process and thank you for your dedication providing insight and values!

    Henry 🙂

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      Hey Henry 🙂

      Looking forward to hearing about your trip when you get back 🙂 Take care and have a safe flight home!


  11. I think there are studies that said rich people think they control their future where as poorer people react to their future. I think it’s really interesting how the mindset greatly influences people’s behavior including their income 🙂

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      Very interesting you bring that up MSM. I definitely think mindset is a huge factor in determining one’s wealth, job, situation in life, etc.

  12. I definitely agree that there are many other things in life that you cannot control and you should not be frustrated with those things. I strongly believe that if you want to achieve anything in life, you should ignore things that you can’t control and try your very best to be successful at what you can. Also, keeping a positive attitude and an eye one the prize will make achieving your goals much easier.

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      I agree with you Leo! 🙂

      Positivity, consistency, and believing you can achieve anything is a great mindset!

  13. It was probably just the movie 😉

    I was emotionally devastated for days after watching Manchester By The Sea. It’s not enjoyable, and a heavy watch, but a fantastic movie in every sense of the word, and one that made a lasting impact.

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  14. I love your consistent and relevant connections to psychology. Anyone with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote is an ace in my book too:)

    Sometimes life is so busy and so many things are flying at me, I find it hard to hit pause and put in some upfront work that will streamline all of the other work in the long run. I love how you separated out proactive behavior from reactive behavior. It’s given me some more concrete terms to work with as I narrow in on my “flying by the seat of my pants” problem. Thanks!

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      Thank you for the comment Savvy History 🙂

      It’s really tough to balance both reactive and proactive actions and thoughts… because a lot of work tends to be fire drills, daily tasks and instructed by higher ups who are the ones who typically are the “strategic” thinkers.

      However, it’s possible for anyone to be strategic and take action around their goals and life 🙂 I try to take a walk or a step back from the noise to reassess and see what could change. Then I guess, take the next steps to make things better 🙂

      Have a great day!!

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