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Last Updated on September 1, 2021

How To Be a Self-Starter And Take Initiative At Work

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How To Be a Self-Starter And Take Initiative At Work

Do you want to be a self-starter and take initiative at work? These 10 essential tips will change your mindset and change the way you work.

Why do I need to be a self-starter and take initiative at work? Aren’t those traits only necessary for entrepreneurs? After all, isn’t the journey towards success only about beating the competition?

I thought this way for years. Even as a child, I thrived off of competing against my peers. I won all the games, aced every test, and enjoyed looking over my five-year plan over coffee when I was seven—okay, forget the coffee, but you get the idea. There was something addictive and satisfying about meeting my objectives and exceeding my peers. And when I stepped into the workforce as an adult, I carried this ideology with me.

As an older Millennial, I grew up believing that business success meant a corner office in Manhattan, enormous shoulder pads, and Jimmy Choo pumps. Okay, maybe I watched a little too much Sex and the City growing up, but you get my point.

When I got my working permit, I followed Dolly Parton’s anthem, 9 to 5 to the letter.[1] I focused on climbing the invisible ladder to the top and avoiding the pitfalls by staying one step ahead of the competition.

Let’s just say it didn’t work for long.

I soon realized that life within the business sector no longer echoed a 90’s sitcom. If anything, it was the antithesis of what I had learned growing up. And if I wanted to stay ahead in the game, I needed to understand the new rules. I had to gain an entrepreneurial mindset, become a self-starter, and learn how to take the initiative.

If you want to succeed this year, you might need to shift your focus. It’ll take some work, but I’ve made it easier for you. Here are ten essential tips that will change how you work and help you become a self-starter.

1. Run Your Race and Set Your Pace

When you can no longer see your competition, you up your own game. Being a self-starter is more than posting selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #EntrepreneurLife. It takes work, and it takes time.

Running your race requires you to look ahead and not around. When you take the time to concentrate on your journey, you don’t care how fast or slow the people around you are traveling. Their race is not your destiny. Don’t allow their movement to become your distraction.

So, set your own pace, schedule your day, and figure out how you work best. When you take the time to become a self-starter, you permit yourself to work differently. And this can be incredibly freeing and helpful.

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2. Skip the Rituals and Branch Out a Bit

When I first launched my business, I had no idea how to plan my day. I was used to working the same forty hours a week, taking lunch breaks at the same time, and conversing with the same people day-in-and-day-out. Needless to say, my life was a bit boring.

It was nice to know what to expect each day. But when I stepped away from the box and colored outside of the lines, I realized that these rituals of sameness were keeping me from moving forward and meeting my career goals. Think about it, “you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.”[2] Let that sink in for a moment. Look at your goals, and then look at the people next to you.

I’m not encouraging you to throw out friendships or refuse to talk to your coworkers. What I am saying is that you need to mix things up a bit if you want to be a self-starter. Don’t get dragged into the group complaining party. Let others sulk in the corner. You have goals to meet and work to do.

So, before you face another week of frustration, question your surrounding and get to know some new people at the office. Embrace the diversity of various perspectives and let that influence your objectives.

3. Don’t Settle Into a Box If You Want to Succeed

Competition keeps you at the top. But here’s the deal; the top is relative—it’s related to the work ethic and the ability of those around you. If you only strive to be the best compared to others, you limit your actual potential because you can only go as far as everyone else desires to go.

To reach the top, you need to break through the barriers, and you have to be willing to go against the grain and go beyond your colleagues’ expectations and excuses. Remember that not everyone wants to move past a particular stage. Many people just want to check-in, check-out, and then place their check in their bank account on payday.

If you learn how to be a self-starter and take the initiative at work, the sky is the limit. However, if you remain stuck in competing against those around you, you’ll never reach your goals—you’ll get stuck following someone else’s dreams and miss out on your own goals entirely.

4. Be Teachable and Seek to Learn

No one ever expected to drum up potential coaching clients on Tik Tok, adapt to a lateral leadership model or work from home 24/7 for an entire year. 2020 completely shifted the business world, and we were pushed off the high dive and weren’t provided with any lifejackets.

No one took the time to train us how to dance, sing, or present a business pitch on social media. The business sector was always about the “know-how,” not entertaining strangers online. But all that changed. Life is much different than what we learned in college.

Years ago, you might have received an A+ for a presentation on cardboard with pasted pictures, but people want more—and they deserve more. To succeed in today’s work environment, you need to create something better than a cardstock display. You need to ask questions, consult with your colleagues, and take a class or two if you want to expand your ability to connect—and, most importantly, communicate your ideas.

If you want to succeed in today’s workforce, you need to present more than an Ivy League degree. You have to bring a hunger to learn and a willingness to adapt.

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5. Being a Self-Starter Requires You to Be Self-Aware

One of the worst things that you can do is move forward without direction. After all, just because you’re moving doesn’t mean that you’re making progress.

If you want to be a self-starter, then you need to be self-aware. And introspection isn’t always the most comfortable. When you understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can either hide and avoid acceptance, make excuses and refuse to adapt, or face the facts and embrace the awkwardness.

Taking the initiative at work requires you to take ownership of your present and your past. It’s the only way to move forward.

6. Know Yourself and Then Accept Yourself

Before I started my own business, I worked in the 9-5 world, and I would always judge my performance against my coworkers. I would pat myself on the back, hold my head up high, and feel confident for about five seconds.

But the feeling never lasted long. Behind my smile and charisma, I felt like a could never keep up. Dealing with reality wasn’t easy, but I’m extremely thankful for this feeling. When I accepted myself, I permitted myself to progress forward with warts and all.

When you take the time to celebrate who you are and your own goals, you don’t care to replicate your life after someone else. You realize that you don’t want to follow someone else’s path. If you want to succeed, then you need to own your own goals and take the initiative to bring your dreams to fruition. So, next time you see your reflection, celebrate who you are and stand up tall.

7. Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

If you want to be a self-starter, you need to learn how to stand alone. This means that you need to develop the mind of an entrepreneur—even if you never plan on leaving your 9 to 5 job. It’s not about the location. It’s about perspective.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset gives you the ability to think differently and gain the tools you need to be a self-starter and take the initiative at work.

If you are new to this concept, here are three tools that will help you to develop this type of mindset:

  • You need to embrace challenges and see them as stepping stones towards progress.[3]
  • Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs.[4] When you’re with people in the same field, they spur you on to dig deeper and risk greater. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely position. When you connect with other square pegs in round holes, you create a support system and a strong community.
  • Be ready to swim upstream, wade in the water alone, and face the twenty-foot waves while pursuing your goals.[5]
  • Entrepreneurship is not easy. But it’s one of the most significant traits that will assist you in becoming a self-starter and taking more initiative at work.

You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to follow your own path. You just need to know yourself, stop judging yourself, and run your race without comparing yourself to those around you.

8. Be a Team-Worker

One of the most prominent features of a self-starter is their ability to stand on their own and get things done. However, there are times where you will have to work and collaborate with other people. There are times where you simply cannot afford to be an island. In such situations, the success of the project usually hinges on the ability of the whole team to work cooperatively.

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Permit me to digress a bit into the sports world. If you are a basketball fan, you will notice how much emphasis is placed on teamwork and chemistry when organizing a basketball team. This is because no matter how talented a team is if they cannot coexist with one another, they will run into serious problems down the line.

The same applies in workplaces and the like. As a self-starter, you have to be able to get other members of the team involved, ensuring everyone knows their duties. Also, you need to understand how to assertively state your opinions while also respecting the opinions of others. After organizing tasks, communication about these tasks should be clear to all members of the team. The team will also decide on its meetings, deadlines, punishments, and the like.

9. Don’t Focus on Failure

Failure sucks. I can assure you of that, but you probably already know! But you must understand that failure is part of life. This sounds so generic, I know, but it is absolutely correct. Life is not always smooth sailing, and there will be times when you wouldn’t get your way.

But the difference between a self-starter and an ordinary man is their response to that failure. Self-starters don’t focus on their failures. They don’t let their failures discourage them from taking risks. Instead, they learn from them and move on.

No one ever prays for failure, but you need to be able to handle it nonetheless. And in such cases, ask yourself for lessons you can learn from the experience. Then shift your focus to the positives – what you have actually succeeded in and let that motivate you to work and strive harder.

10. Avoid Procrastination

This is one of those pieces of advice where it is far easier said than actually done. It is always easier to say, “I’ll do it later,” than actually getting up and doing it now. Avoid procrastination by all means.

If you have an activity or task to do, let your mentality be on doing it “now” and not “later.” Not only will you complete your tasks as fast as possible, but you will also inculcate a winning mentality.

Even if you get every other thing in this article right, if you cannot stop procrastinating, you will never actually make real progress as a self-starter.

Which Self-Starter Skills Can You Show In an Interview?

Every employer wants a self-starter for their company because of the many benefits they bring to the table. This is why in interviews, interviewers are always on the lookout for certain skills that naturally accompany self-starters. Below are some of these vital skills.

Self-Motivation

Self-starters usually can motivate themselves to work. They don’t need to be forced, coerced, or threatened to work before they get things done. This is a critical factor in many interviews, as self-motivated people will mean less burden on employers and greater productivity and efficiency.

Confidence

Self-starters are typically very confident in their abilities. They place a lot of trust in their discretion and ability to make the right choices at all times, and it usually pays off well in interviews. Exuding confidence is perhaps the best form of reassurance your employers need as it means you will not be easily swayed by various opinions in the course of the job.

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However, one needs to make a distinction between confidence and over-confidence. The former is excellent; the other is absolutely horrible. Over-confident fellows don’t take advice from others or believe they are beyond correction. Trust me; there is no bigger red flag in an interview than a person that doesn’t seem flexible to correction and change.

Ambition

Aim big – that’s the message. It’s as simple as that, really. Don’t just settle for the bottom level when you can be aiming for far bigger things. This is one of the skills that can gain you favor in the eyes of interviewers. No one wants a small mind in their business.

But, you need to ensure the ambitions are realistic. If they sound more like things you’d ask a genie, then you’ll just piss off the interviewers. To pitch realistic ambitions, do a lot of research before attending the interview to know where the business is and where they can be.

Discipline

One of the commonest reasons people lose their jobs is lack of discipline. As you would imagine, employers are very wary of the discipline of potential employees. As a self-starter, discipline is critical. Being able to restrain oneself when needed and follow certain set guidelines is a way of winning the hearts of interviewers.

Discipline is such a valuable skill to have. One way to improve discipline is to set a schedule and follow it closely. It may start with little things at first, like what time you go to bed and wake. Mastering this will help improve your overall discipline.

Good communication skills

Right from the first point of contact with your interviewers, they often already have a fair idea of how good your communication skills are. You don’t even have to say a word at times, and I am dead serious here.

As a self-starter, you need to be able to communicate your goals effectively and also pass across essential information. This is only possible with good communication skills. Know when to start talking and know when to stop talking. Watch your facial expressions closely. Pay close attention to all communication cues.

Final Thoughts

In many ways, learning how to be a self-starter and taking the initiative at work gives you the tools to succeed in your professional life and meet your personal goals.

So, color outside those lines, skip the rituals, and walk your path. Create a far more fulfilling life than a forty-hour workweek. Get to your destination without being deterred by the noise and work without being boxed in by comparison.

More Tips on How to Be a Self-Starter

Featured photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues via unsplash.com

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Dr. Colleen Batchelder

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Leadership Strategist | Executive Coach | Dr. Batchelder teaches business leaders how to create corporations where Millennials want to work.

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Last Updated on September 5, 2021

How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

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How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

I don’t know about you, but it was nearly impossible for me to be proactive at work last year.

Every week, I would map out my game plan and color-coded my calendar. But when I tried to set things in motion, I faced ten-foot barriers that would force me to change direction. I’d have to reschedule meetings, push deadlines back, and reorganize my life because of all the twists and turns. Pivoting became my life, and it was taking over every part of it.

When I think back to 2020, it was like trying to survive the Tour de France blindfolded. By the end of the year, I was worn out, and I was in no mood to organize my 2021 goals. Being proactive was the furthest from my mind. In many ways, I didn’t even want to dream about new projects.

When January 1st entered the scene, I crawled back under my covers and hoped for the best—or at least a year that would be more predictable with less pivoting.

You want to be hopeful for this year, but a part of you is afraid of another year filled with more barriers and you’re tired of trying to survive the chaos. You’re not alone.

Over 100,000 businesses have permanently shut their doors because of Covid-19.[1] Start-Ups aren’t getting a second chance.[2] And according to Pew Research, one in four adults still have a hard time finding money to pay their bills.[3]

This reality is not the most inspiring for those of us who are business leaders. If anything, it feels like the grim reaper is right around the corner to destroy our dreams and add us to the rising number of failed companies.

Being proactive is one of the most challenging things to muster right now. But it is one of the most imperative traits that we need to embrace.

But first, let’s be clear, what does being proactive mean?

Defining the Term “Proactive” In-Depth

The word proactive often floats around the workplace, usually by well-meaning managers asking employees or their team to, “Be more proactive!” But have you ever stopped to think about what that actually means?

The dictionary definition of proactive is, “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.”

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Being proactive is about dealing with any obstacles or challenges before they even happen. Simply put, a proactive person plans ahead.

For example, you’re buying an older home. The seller tells you that it has a sturdy foundation and an engineer confirms it. Most people would be satisfied with this answer.

A proactive person, however, would think beyond what’s presented and look into any potential issues. They may ask questions like, “How long is the lifespan of the foundation?”, “Is it earthquake ready?”, or “Does insurance cover the foundation?”

Depending on the answers, proactive people would respond accordingly and put safeguards in place to avoid these problems or minimise its impact. While it seems like a lot of resources and effort are spent at the beginning, it can actually lessen your stress and save you time and effort because you’re either preventing a problem or already have a solution at hand when the challenge arises.

This doesn’t mean that proactive people never have to put out fires on occasion. However, when you have a proactive mindset, most of the issues that come up seemingly out of left field are already something you’ve considered. And this makes you better equipped to handle situations calmly and enact a solution.

If you want your business to succeed this year, you need to be proactive at work. Situations around the world are constantly changing and you never know what the next month, year or even hour might bring and how it would affect your work. Planning ahead and preparing for the future is incredibly vital in our current climate.

Proactivity vs Reactivity

We can’t discuss proactivity without exploring the other side of the coin: Reactivity.

Being reactive is the complete opposite of being proactive. A reactive person doesn’t feel the need to address a problem until it’s already occurred. They simply react to a situation because it’s already there.

Spontaneity and the ability to address problems as they arise is important in leadership, and in life. After all, we cannot predict the future no matter how hard we try. But oftentimes reactive people encounter problems because they refuse to take action even though there have been warning signs of imminent trouble.

Reactivity also comes from a place of panic. Because you have not thought or planned ahead, you react instantaneously. You may not offer the best solution because you haven’t had time to fully review the situation, and maybe even create more problems.

It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier with the following practical habits that I’ve put together for you. These tools will make all the difference for you and your organization.

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7 Practical Habits to Turn Reactivity into Proactivity

Even proactive people can exhibit reactive behavior. No one is perfect and the corporate and business world can be unpredictable. But you can turn things around and be proactive even when you have not anticipated challenges that face you. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t Be Busy

Repeat after me: only do what is necessary—no more and no less.

If you’re anything like me, as soon as January 1st comes along, you cram in all your five-year goals into one packed year. You love seeing your schedule filled. But being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Being proactive requires you to take a step back, reevaluate your priorities, and actually take things off of your plate before adding new goals.

The brain is not designed to always operate at full capacity twenty-four hours a day.[4] It needs a break. If we’re constantly immersing ourselves throughout the day with frivolous tasks, then we don’t have time to concentrate on our goals.

This year, I’m taking a break from the chaos and learning to do fewer tasks with more investment.

Think of it this way. Planning takes time. It’s like painting an apartment. Before you can add color to the drab walls of your living room, you have to plan and prep the area. The same is true for being proactive at work.

2. Stop Trying to Run Everyone’s Race

If you want to direct the narrative of your life, you need to take a step back and get rid of the clutter. Figure out what you can delegate and then, focus your energy away from the distractions. Not every email needs a reply, and not every job is right for you.

Shakespeare said it best,[5]

“To thine own self be true.”

These six words need to become your mantra.

If you want to reach your goals this year and be proactive, you need to walk forward with laser focus. If you compare yourself or your business to the next big thing, you won’t contribute anything except a lesser copy of yourself and your organization.

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Part of being proactive is being creative. You have to be able to see the different angles and nuances in a situation or project in order to anticipate potential issues and come up with creative solutions. If you’re constantly looking over someone else’s work, you’re not focusing on what’s in front of you. And you could end up missing a lot of obstacles that you could’ve avoided if you were paying attention.

Stop looking around. Your purpose is not to run the race of someone else. If you want to be proactive at work, you need to stop comparing yourself to your neighbor and stick to running your own race. It’s the only way that you’ll win.

3. Make “Essentialism” Your 2021 Word

When you’re figuring out your 2021 goals, take time to weigh the cost. Ask yourself if it’s worth the investment. Being proactive means that you take into consideration all the variables before cementing your goals.

Before you map out your plan or get crazy with those highlighters, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Will this goal help create balance in my life?
  • Will this goal produce a return on investment?

If you can answer a resounding “yes” to both of these questions, then take these ideas and write them down on a piece of paper.

After you’ve compiled a list of 15 to 20 ideas, take a new sheet of paper and break it into two columns. The first section should contain a list of goals that take priority. These ideas would fall under the umbrella of being trend-related and financially profitable.

The second section should contain a list of goals that will increase your social proof and promote your priority goals. This column drives traffic and promotes awareness of your business and your product.

After you’ve compiled this list, break it in half and cut it down to three goals in each section. Three is the perfect number because it gives you leeway to pivot and bend if you need to make changes throughout the process.

The two excellent tools that have helped me develop a schedule of essentialism are Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence Journal[6] and Jill Konrath’s book, “More Sales. Less Time.

Both of these tools have helped me focus on what’s important, make the best decisions for my business, and make a profit without sacrificing my health.

4. Order the Same Latte

When you look at the greats in the business world, they all encompass one thing: simplicity.

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If you minimize your choices and stick to the basics, you’ll have the ability to save time and focus your energy on decisions that require your creativity. Keeping up with the latest fashion trends not only sacrifices your time but also sacrifices your budget.

Remember, it’s not about looking successful. It’s about making choices that give you the ability to be successful.

Here are four things that you can do to save time to make you more proactive at work:

  • Buy multiples of the same outfit and mix and match throughout the week.
  • Order the same drink each day from the same coffee shop.
  • Prepare meals at the beginning of the week for lunch and dinner.
  • Set your alarm for the same time each morning, including weekends.

5. Don’t Pressure Yourself to Respond Immediately

It’s okay to be surprised or be blindsided. Sometimes things just happen that is out of your control. What you are in control of, however, is your reaction. There’s nothing wrong with not having a solution or response at hand. It’s okay to take a step back and think about it first before responding.

6. Put a Pin on It

If you find yourself being unable to come up with a good solution, you can put a pin on it. You may want to address another matter first, one you already know how to deal with. It may give you inspiration and confidence when you come back to your other issues. Unless of course the imminent problem is fire outside your door.

7. Prioritize What’s Important

The thing with problems that come up suddenly, is that they may have already caused damage you can’t reverse. You have to learn to accept the situation and instead of trying to solve the unsolvable, prioritize what’s important, see what you can salvage and take note of lessons that will help you in the future.

It’s impossible to be proactive if you feel rushed. But if you follow the above tips, you’ll gain more time in your schedule and have more energy to lead your business and operate with a well-organized game plan.

Final Thoughts

I think the majority of us are tired of feeling like we’re contestants in Survivor. After all, who wants to be filmed while living in the woods and surviving off of bugs and tree bark?

All kidding aside. This past year has been challenging. But we can learn a lot from these past twelve months.

If you want to be proactive, simplify your schedule, focus on your path, only take what you need, and be purposeful with your time and energy. Being proactive is not about filling up your schedule. It’s about creating balance in your life.

I know it seems daunting right now, and many of us are still trying to figure out how to pay this month’s rent with spare change from the couch. But if you take the time to prepare and figure out what’s a priority this year, you’ll not only meet your goals, you’ll enjoy the journey.

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You have all the tools you need to be proactive at work. Now, go map out your 2021 goals for the year!

More Tips on How to Be Proactive

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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