proactive behavior take control

Take Control of Your Life with Proactive Behavior

Erik Personal Development and Lifestyle, Personal Growth, Thoughts of a Mastermind 30 Comments


10:30 PM, last Friday. I had just played 2 softball games and was on the way home. Many things were on my mind: ideas for growing The Mastermind Within, my financial situation, other business ideas, and my plans for the weekend. I try to have 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.

I arrived home around 10:45 PM and started chatting with my roommate. He had just finished up the movie Manchester by the Sea and was in a very pensive and introspective mood. I haven’t seen Manchester by the Sea, so here’s a quick summary from IMDB:

An uncle is obliged to return home to care for his nephew after his brother dies. Not knowing that he has been named guardian, he struggles with the decision. Throughout the movie he recounts past memories that caused him to leave Manchester and distance himself from his past.

It was only 10:45 PM. I asked if he was interested in going to the local bar for a drink to chat about his thoughts and life. He obliged; I showered and we headed out.

In this post, I will share my conversation with my roommate, my thoughts and takeaways, and some tips on how to take control of your life by displaying proactive behavior.

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

Are You in Control of Your Life?

After getting to the bar and getting our beers, I asked my roommate to tell me his thoughts after watching the movie. He explained the movie hit him deep and got him thinking about his life goals and plans. In the movie, the main character is depressed because he isn’t in control of his life. The main character struggles with his past experiences and how they lead him to his current state. No wonder why my roommate was in an introspective mood given the movie’s plot.

My Roommate’s Thoughts on His Life

I asked my roommate pointed questions. I figured if my roommate shared his thoughts, I could possibly influence him to be less frustrated and more positive. Here were his thoughts (from his point of view):

You know how when you are 20 or 21, you start thinking about your twenties and how they will unfold? When I was 20, I thought, “Sure, I’ll probably date a girl on and off and around 27/28, I’ll start to get more serious and look to get married.”

Well, I’m 25 right now and I’m not dating anyone. I just think it’s interesting that you can have a vision of your life and it doesn’t always go the way you plan it. I feel there are many things in life that are completely out of my control and I’m frustrated. Like I said, when I was in my early twenties, I thought I’d be in a different place and be achieving the things I thought I’d achieve.

After he shared his thoughts, I asked a few more questions: first, why do you think you aren’t in control of your life? Why don’t things go as planned? We are sitting in a bar, do you want to go talk to any of the girls in here? Here were his thoughts on this set of questions (again from his point of view):

I don’t know exactly why I think I’m not in control of my life. I’m just doing the things I thought I’d be doing and I don’t feel in control. I don’t want to go talk to any of the girls here because that’s not me. The pick-up game just doesn’t appeal to me – I don’t like meaningless small talk and I can’t seem to get to what I want to talk about.

My Response

At this point, I was a little bit taken back. I sensed a strong negativity and great displeasure towards his life. One thing in particular I found interesting was how he felt he didn’t have control of any aspect of his life. I was puzzled, but then realized, not everyone is like me – not everyone leads an intentional life.

So, I followed up by saying this:

I don’t really know what to tell you. I do see your point; there are many things we can’t control in life. For me personally, I don’t worry about things I can’t control.

That being said, I realize there are many things I can control, my philosophy, my actions, and how I spend my time. There are so many variables to consider that if I spent time worrying about things I can’t control, then I’d never be able to get anything done. Instead, I focus on my goals and dreams, and work each day to get better.

At this point, I could tell he was still frustrated, so I stopped digging in on his thoughts.

I walked away from this interaction with a bad taste in my mouth. I was a little bit bothered by his negative thoughts and resistance to taking a different view. I’ve lived with the guy for 3 years and see what he does with his time and money. On Saturday night, he went to see a movie with his friends. Afterwards, he went for a drink and got home around 2 AM. I on the other hand was tired from the week and the night before. I read for an hour and went to bed early to prepare for a big Mother’s day.

Can you guess who is getting ahead?

I had a few takeaways: why do some people reactive in their behavior? What if they changed to 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

Proactive Behavior vs. Reactive 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.

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.

People who are successful in life are proactive and make things happen. Proactive behavior helps you take control of your life.

What I’m Doing in 2017 to Take Control of My Life

Late 2016, I decided 2017 would be a fantastic year. I set a number of goals which have lead to solid growth, self development and have been helping set me up for long-term success. I looked forward a year and said to myself, at the beginning of 2018, I want to be able to say I’ve started a successful blog, I have multiple passive income streams, and I’ve grown tremendously in many different ways.

Each and every morning, I wake up ready to improve. In February, I read The Slight Edge and my life changed. Each day we have 24 hours. If I spend an hour watching TV each day, I will have watched 365 hours of TV at the end of the year. What if I read some personal development material an hour a day? I will be 365 hours better than if I had watched TV.

Proactive Behavior Leads to Success

I have already experienced some great growth. I’ve grown The Mastermind Within to 100+ subscribers and 3,500+ monthly views in 4.5 months. I’ve read 27 books in 2017, and I’ve tracked every dollar of my income and expenses to ensure I’m saving and investing for the future. Staying consistent for the next 7.5 months will keep the ball rolling. By being proactive and continuing to apply forward thinking will allow me to keep getting better and more valuable.

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

How to Take Control of Your Life

Here are 5 simple steps for taking control of your life:

  1. Identify your goals and dreams
    • Split these goals and dreams into multiple buckets: social, financial, spiritual, physical, emotional, work, fun.
    • Ask yourself: where do you want to be in 1 year? In 5 years? In 10 years?
    • Do you want to get a promotion at work?  Do you want to increase your savings rate? Are you looking to retire early? Do you want more friends? Are you happy with your job? What things stress you out? Do you want to lose 10 pounds?
  2. Figure out which actions you must take to reach those goals and dreams
    • You have your dream, now what do you have to do to make it happen?
    • Do you want to retire early? Ask yourself, what’s your savings rate? What is your retirement income goal? Are you currently saving enough to allow yourself to retire at age X?
    • Are you looking to get a promotion at work? Who are the key influences of your career? What skills are necessary to be successful at the next level?
    • Do you want to lose 10 pounds? What are you eating each day? Are you exercising enough to get your body in a calorie deficit?
  3. 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.
    • “A journey of a thousand miles beings 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
    • Have you ever started on your goals only to stop? Did you end up reaching your goal?
    • Each day, spend at least 10 minutes working towards your goals. At the end of one year, you will have spent 3650 minutes, or 60 hours on going for your goal.
    • Don’t Quit!
    • Consistent actions over time WILL lead to massive success.
  5. Reassess to ensure you are on track to reach your goals.
    • From time to time, you will need to see if you are still on track.
    • I stay accountable to myself monthly. You can do this check 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.

      proactive behavior take control


You have the keys to your life. It is up to you to unlock your full potential and lead a great life. 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?





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Comments 30

  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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  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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