THE POWER OF PROACTIVITY
Believe it or not, before I was a practicing psychologist and then a traveling speaker, I was a carpenter. I mean, I didn’t own a construction business or anything like that, but I framed houses along with a crew of other workers. This is how I paid my way through college.
I remember a woodworking rule of thumb which the crew members used to say, and it wasn’t “pound it until it fits” – though this sometimes was the fallback position for framing a house. If it doesn’t fit the first time, just pound it harder with your hammer until it gets in there!
It was actually this: MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE.
Now that is good woodworking advice. Take the time to measure twice, or three times even, before you start the cut on the wood itself; thus reducing the likelihood of a mis-sized piece of wood which you will either have to put in the scrap pile or “pound it ‘till it fits.”
The act of measuring is being proactive. The act of pounding it is reactive.
I love the word proactive, because most of us are not that – most of us are reactive. The prefix pro has a Greek origin which means “before”. Proactive, that is, before you act you have done something; what is that? You have measured – you have thought about what you’re going to do before you do it.
For example, you are in the grocery store with your 6 year old, and they decide to have the biggest melt down of all time. What do you do? Maybe you say “Stop that Johnnie, you are causing a scene.” To this the child escalates even more. So in response, what do you do? You escalate more as well, “Johnnie, I am telling you to stop that right now!!” Your child throws himself on the floor for a full blown temper tantrum. And then you lose it, you pull the child up from the floor, twisting his arm, he screams more – and you notice people are taking cell phone video of you. Oh no. It’s gonna be on Facebook. This is a bad moment because you were reactive instead of proactive.
Perhaps the power of proactivity may be of help. Before you are in that situation, you’ve sat down with a note pad and brainstormed 7 or 10 things you can do in the grocery store when your 6 year old has a temper tantrum. And then when you go to the store, don’t forget to take that note pad with you.
Most people in life are very reactive to circumstances. But what if we thought things out a little bit before they happen? Take a look at your life routine; what are you going to do with – that tone of voice your spouse has, your boss who keeps giving you new urgent tasks to complete right now, and that guy who cut you off on the Freeway?
This is wisdom from woodworking that I am working on as well. I’d like my life practice to be more of a measuring twice and cut once, instead of a pound it ‘till it fits philosophy.
What is your philosophy on life?
Psychologist and Humorist, Bruce Christopher