What is this soft skill proactivity, why is proactivity needed in life and career, and how to develop it?

Proactivity is a soft skill that helps you prioritize and resist impulsive reactions — being proactive means taking responsibility for your destiny, not shifting it to external circumstances and others.

Options for defining proactivity

  • Activity + responsibility.
  • Personal responsibility for your life.
  • Thoughtful activity.

Austrian existential neuropsychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl used the term proactivity to describe a person who has taken charge of their own life. Instead of looking for the causes of failures in external circumstances or other people.

He emphasized the importance of courage, perseverance, and individual responsibility. And he argued that you need to realize that every person has a choice in any situation.


  • I envision a problem.
  • I choose how to react.
  • “What can I do?”


  • I react impulsively to a problem.
  • “Who is to blame for this?”

Why develop proactivity?

  1. To be able to adapt to change. It’s very much needed in our time.
  2. Improve the quality of your life and communication.
  3. Accelerate your career growth.
  4. Support us along the way.

Proactivity in life

Level: thinking

  • I ask questions.
  • I analyze the reasons.
  • I am looking for alternatives.

Level: attitude

  • I single out my zone of influence and responsibility for the situation.
  • I am responsible for my actions and reactions.
  • I let go of what I cannot change and what I cannot influence.

Level: Action

  • I set goals.
  • I analyze risks.
  • I change circumstances that I can change.

Career proactivity

Level: organization

  • I regularly ask who is doing what in my and other departments.
  • I understand how I can be helpful to other people.
  • I take part in cross-functional projects (several times a year).

Level: communication with professionals

  • I participate in professional conferences/events/meetings (once a quarter and more often).
  • I speak at professional conferences/events/meetings (once every six months or a year or more).
  • I am part of the professional community in my profession/role.

Level: development

  • I have a mentor/mentor (I change them based on my development goals).
  • I regularly develop new skills in my profession.
  • I analyze how the labor market changes and what skills will be more in demand (once a quarter or more often).

Level: new experience

  • I regularly try something new (dish, place, communication, action).
  • I regularly look for new ways of doing things and tasks I used to do.
  • I translate the problem into a task and a new learning experience (What can I learn from this situation? What is helpful for me?).

How to develop proactivity

  1. Fill out the career checklist above, select one of the items in each category, and start practicing.
  2. Start to analyze your reactions: what exactly hurt me now?
  3. Ask yourself more often: what can I learn from this situation?
  4. Come up with at least three reactions and options for solving a particular problem/situation/issue — both work and life.

What else to read about proactivity

  1. John Miller “Proactive Thinking”, “The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life”
  2. Frankl V. E. “Man’s Search for Meaning”
  3. Stephen R. Covey “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic”

Take the test Menteora and find out what soft skills you need to upgrade: