The Power Of Being Proactive: 5 Ways To Develop This Surprising Skill

Nov 15, 2023Personal Finance

If you’re trying to get ahead or nurture greater happiness and satisfaction in life and work, there’s a trait you may not have realized is quite so important: the ability to be proactive.

Challenges are seemingly everywhere: The job market is tough, work is a struggle, stress is rampant, loneliness is epidemic, and people are polarized. But amidst all the challenges, being proactive may help.

Of course, it’s not a panacea, but research on being proactive provides powerful evidence it can help build your career, contribute to your success, foster positive relationships, nurture your fulfillment and even help you make more money.

It’s worth learning more.

Proactive Personality

Being proactive has actually been found as a unique aspect of personality, according to research published in the Journal of Human Performance. When people are proactive, they take initiative to influence their environments and embrace personal agency. They are curious, confident and seek positive control. They make changes, take action and avoid passive acceptance of their circumstances, according to the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

It can be helpful to understand what proactive personality is not. According to Thomas Bateman , being proactive is not the same as just being busy or productive, nor is it focused on taking risks. Of course, these can be characteristics of taking action, but being proactive isn’t just being busy, adventurous or audacious—it is being reflective, discerning and strategic about the action you take.

Plenty of Benefits

When people are proactive, they tend to thrive at work and they tend to be more satisfied with their careers because they take action across their career stages and therefore experience more growth in their careers, according to the Journal of Vocational Behavior research. In addition, people who are more proactive tend to benefit by being promoted to leadership roles and making more money, based on research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

In addition, when employees are more proactive, business outcomes are improved through greater effectiveness and enhanced competitiveness. People who take charge, seek feedback and build strong social networks in turn improve creativity and processes within organizations, according to research published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Employees with a proactive bent also help organizations face uncertainty in a challenging business climate, according to research in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Interestingly, research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology also reports that 40% of whether you’re proactive can be attributed to your genes, but fully 60% is based on environmental factors, so it’s worth the effort to develop the capability.


Tune In

One of the first ways to be more proactive is to tune in, pay attention and explore your situation. Seek information from sources you know, and also explore terrain which may be less familiar to you. Subscribe to the news outlet or journal with new perspectives or opinions which don’t match your own. Challenge yourself to stay in touch with what’s going on in the world, in your area, at work and in your community.

With high levels of awareness about context, you can be ready to consider the best strategy to move forward.


Make Plans

Another way to demonstrate proactivity is to look ahead. According to research in the Journal of Applied Psychology, making long term plans is characteristic of those who are effectively proactive.

Be intentional about where you want to be, what you want to achieve and set goals accordingly. Take a ‘backward from perfect’ strategy. Aspire for the long term and your ideal, and then work backward to establish the steps that will get you to the end game you seek.


Take Action

This is perhaps the most quintessential of proactive behaviors. In addition to checking the context and making plans, you’ll also want to take ownership and dive in. When you see problems, take initiative to recommend solutions. When you have responsibilities, follow through and complete tasks.

Seek new learning and explore new career directions—and then take a class or build a relationship with a mentor who can help you grow. Offer to contribute on a project which is related to the career you want to develop, and take on responsibilities which interest you and on which you can add value.

All of these will help you craft your job today and your runway to what will come next.



Another key element of being proactive is to persevere despite obstacles and barriers . Stick with things, even when they’re challenging. Demonstrate grit and resilience as you push through.

Also be willing to change course when you must. If things don’t go as plans, reflect, learn and adjust for the next time.


Seek Great Leaders

Research in Frontiers in Psychology also shows that leaders have a bearing on your ability to be proactive. Seek out leaders who give you opportunities to expand your role, allow you to influence how you get things done and empower you to make decisions. These help build your confidence and competence.

If your direct leader doesn’t provide this kind of autonomy or empowerment, look for mentors or coaches who do—and assess these traits in the leader for the job you choose next.

Creating Your Future

Overall, being proactive is something you can embrace, pursue and develop. Be intentional about how you take action and make things happen.

The mantra is true that to accept the things you cannot change will contribute to your peace of mind. But it’s also true there is a lot you can impact, and you have more influence over yourself, your circumstances and others than you may realize.

So commit to building your skills in building your future—and you’ll achieve payoffs in your happiness and satisfaction with work and life.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021.