Proactivity and Response-ability

I find myself again living out the essence of proactivity and response-ability. What exactly are these two items and how am I living them out? Well, read more to find out.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post about our Zone of Proximal Development and how we should try to always be growing and doing something new. If you haven’t checked that post out, then I encourage you to read it here. In me living by the words that I preach, I am doing something new again this week, and that is giving a seminar here in China (my first one) about Effective Time Management this Friday, July 5.

As I was preparing for this seminar, I came across the word responsibility in Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” If you haven’t read this book, then I suggest that you read it. I have read this book before, and I know about the word as well, but I just came back to it again and it has brought a whole new meaning of significance in my life this time around.

With the various roles that I have in life, I feel as though I was a good time-manager, but after reading that book, I became truly effective, and as I went through it again in order to have points to talk about with this seminar, I came across the word responsibility again. And along with this word came proactivity. As I was practicing my seminar speech for Friday, I started thinking and using some examples and reliving past experiences in my life (mentally). It made me realize a few things about both words.


More than just being proactive, it means we have the responsibility to make things happen.

proactivity, responsibility, response-ability
Me versus my roommate in college.

Most people know what being proactive means, it means not waiting until the last second to do something. I have always been proactive, ever since college. If an essay was due Friday, I wasn’t the student to do it Thursday night with Starbucks by my side; I was the person who finished it by Monday and then revised it on Wednesday and Thursday. So, I know what proactive means. Moreover, though, proactivity means to make things happen, to look for those experiences and opportunities that lie before us, to be persistent.

In reading and teaching the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell for AP Language and Composition, I have realized this trait of proactivity and response-ability really are two traits crucial to success. All the individuals he mentions in the book have these things, along with grit, which is the perseverance to continue making those things happen. As I start to brand myself more as not only an educator, but a speaker and lecturer and influencer, I realize that these things I need to keep working at myself.

 Actually, that is one reason why I am giving this seminar on Friday. The opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. I am living with the idea of proactivity in mind. In my last blog post, I mentioned plans to go to Colombia for a master’s in Creative Writing. Well, my colleague happens to be Colombian-American, so I take advantage of his native-ness and turn studying with him into an opportunity. He also is currently building his brand and company, and I am in the midst of collaborating with him for content so that we both can utilize to help each other grow. Synergy, as Stephen Covey calls it in his book. Where 2+2 no longer equals 4, it equals 8.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that I have grown spiritually this semester. I have Sebastian (my colleague) to thank for that as well. I have noticed it, and at some points, it’s strange to me, but others have noticed it as well. This is great. The fact that others can see a positive change in me means I’m doing something right, and that I should continue doing what I’ve been doing.

The reason I mention this is because things have happened in my life over the past few weeks that I can’t really explain. First, the creation of this website has been a blessing. Not only in the blog page you are reading now, but also in the contact page, as I was having trouble with it earlier. Just recently, I was able to sign up for Google Adsense through my blog, something that I had tried doing previously but failed horribly at it.

Through my growth in God, I realize that he has put opportunities in my way and that he will continue to put opportunities in front of me. In fact, he has told me that exact thing while in church one day. I realize that I am truly happy with my life right now. And while all of this seems too good to be true, it isn’t. LIfe hasn’t changed. I have changed my life. I have started living a lifestyle more in tune with the idea of proactivity, and thus, it has yielded greater results and happiness.


Responsibility is broken down as in “response-ability,” meaning we have the ability to choose our responses.

I love this. It is clever and it is definitely one thing that we shouldn’t take for granted.

As I was preparing for my speech on Friday, I recalled this word and instances where this word has truly spoken to me. Recently, I have helped a few friends out in the Ambright school program that I have been working in for three years now. Both teachers were extremely frustrated with the students. They would complain about how the students are lazy and never do their homework and seem to have no intrinsic motivation (no grit) for doing better. The students don’t want to alleviate their situation, and it seems that they are only here to get out of taking the Gao Kao exam (the national exam in China).

I admit I was like this, too, my first year here at Ambright and in Yixing. One day I went into the classroom with a questionnaire and let the students fill it out while I waited outside. I wasn’t getting through to them and didn’t know what they wanted. And I thought I had no control of the classroom. In essence, it made me doubt my qualification to even be a teacher. When both of my colleagues had similar experiences with students here in Suzhou, I told them this story and how to overcome it through response-ability.

Focus on what we can do. Don’t focus on what we cannot do.

This is exactly why we need response-ability. When we have this trait, we become a more proactive individual, and proactive individuals focus on things they CAN control, not things they cannot control. I can control how well I plan my lesson or how well I teach, but I cannot force students to learn who do not want to learn. I cannot force students to pay attention in class. Sure, I can remind them, and I do. At a certain point, however, we must move on and focus our attention on those who want to be helped. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I tell them this and help them realize that we can only do so much as teachers. Their failure to learn is not our failure to teach.

So many of us don’t become effective because we live in a reactive state instead of a proactive state. We worry about the weather and if it is raining outside or snowing outside, we don’t want to go to the gym any longer. We worry about our conditions. If we are too tired, we don’t want to put in the effort to go to the gym or to school, etc. We worry about other people. We get shy or embarrassed about how other people may view us and so sometimes it limits our ability to act. Moreover, we don’t live a life of proactivity and response-ability.

In Closing

If you have seen yourself as being a reactive person instead of a proactive person, change it. You can. That is one of the greatest things about being a human versus being an animal: we can rescript ourselves. We can change who we are. It happens all the time, most notably through any transition period (like high school to college, single life to married life). It’s never too late to start being proactive and start choosing how to respond to situations and choosing where and when and with who to spend your time with, making use of every opportunity that comes your way, because we can all be successful, and success doesn’t have to mean lots of money, we can make it mean whatever we want it to mean because we have response-ability.

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