How To Be Proactive (When You're Stuck At Home)

With the panic stretching longer than many of us ever imagined, taking charge of a few things in our lives might help us feel we have a bit more control.

A year into the pandemic, it’s completely normal for all motivation to have slipped out of the window and to have fallen into a new routine of eat, sleep, Netflix, repeat.

But with the current situation stretching longer than many of us ever imagined, taking charge of a few things in our lives might help us feel like we have a bit more control – whether that’s learning a new skill or exploring that business venture you’ve always dreamed of.

Joanna Mallon, career coach and author, says experiencing a lack of drive at a time like this is very common. Fortunately her book, ‘Change Your Life in 5 Minutes a Day: Inspiring Ideas to Vitalize Your Life Every Day’, argues that taking control doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking.

It’s all about switching to a more proactive mindset, rather than a predominantly passive one. “A passive thinker lets the world happen to them and deals with changes as they occur, whilst a proactive thinker will take steps to create the changes they want to happen,” Mallon tells HuffPost UK. “A passive person will take the life they’re given whereas a proactive person will take action to create the life they want.”

Environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers agrees, adding: “Proactive thinking is all about being flexible and agile and seeing the interconnected elements of life and creating a dynamic plan.” The difference between being a passive and proactive thinker is knowing how to respond to situations by analysing them rather than allowing our thoughts to take over us.

So how can we start not just seizing opportunities but creating them for ourselves? Chambers recommends drawing up a list of proactive questions to ask yourself to help you evaluate possible next steps. “These questions can identify where you are currently at and look at with clarity at a plan, such as ‘What do I need to do to feel fulfilled in the short-term and the long-term?’” he says. Other options could be: What am I passionate about? Do I have contacts who might be able to collaborate with me?

Make sure you spend enough time on this, after all, time is all we have at the moment. Why not start the exercise and then return to it again a day or two later to reflect on your answers. “With this clarity, it’s essential to analyse what you might need to change and look at how your expectations might cause you to react,” he says. He recommends giving yourself a few options to compare so that you feel empowered with your choices.

Mallon also encourages reflection. You need to look at what factors might be at play at making you feel the way, beyond the pandemic: It may come from fear of moving forward in your life or from having set the wrong goals that you’re just not excited enough about.” A helpful tip in working out what you are passionate about is to spend some time thinking about the opposite: for this Mallon recommends creating a ‘To Don’t’ list to help you prioritise.

If you’re stuck, Chambers recommends spending some time outside alone to reflect and jumpstart your creative imagination. “Getting outside is vital for our proactivity, whether it be tending to plants ready for spring, having the icy air hitting your cheeks, or walking around the block as a commute.”

Practicing proactive thinking isn’t just necessary for achieving big goals. If these feel daunting, start small. “This is the time to try and get creative, and you can do this by finding a hobby,” says Chambers. “Think about trying new things and learning new skills, without the expectation that you will be amazing.”

Whether large or small, taking back control can lead to greater satisfaction in life. Chambers says: “You start to create your own future by having options and feeling more in control of your own destiny.”