Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Role of Proactivity in Self-Action Leadership

The Self-Action Leadership Theory, Model, and Textbooks are now officially published and available in print form.

Now that leaders, educators, and parents around the United States and world can review the material, how can they determine whether it is worthy or wanting in terms of its potential value in their organizations, schools, and homes? 

The answer to this question will differ from reviewer to reviewer. After all, different people view the world in different ways. But it will also depend on how PROACTIVE each reviewer is.

This is because proactivity is the essence of Self-Action Leadership (SAL). It is also because SAL does not provide quick or simple solutions to deep problems.


Because quick or simple solutions to serious problems usually don’t exist—no matter how badly we may wish for or hope that they would. More often, deep problems require deep solutions, which in-turn require extensive amounts of focus, discipline, dedication, consistence, and persistence (in other words, PROACTIVITY) to access and animate in real life.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you snake oil.  

As such, those who are unwilling to carefully and seriously review the SAL material probably won’t recognize its true potential. Instead, they’ll just see two long textbooks capable of collecting a lot of dust.

Dr. David G. Anthony, an incredibly accomplished professional educator—who wrote the Afterword to the SAL Textbooks—initially felt the same reactive pull of unwillingness that you may feel as you are confronted with two, long, print textbooks.

In Anthony’s own words:

“When Jordan originally invited me to review an 802-page manuscript of this book, I balked a bit, wondering when I would possibly have time to review such a tome. It is interesting to note how some of life’s most important, rewarding, and ultimately enjoyable tasks initially appear so uninviting. In the end, I opted to set myself to the task, and I am so glad that I did. 

“I thank Jordan for inviting me to read this work. He has earned my endorsement. Reading the Self-Action Leadership textbooks may be the most worthwhile thing you do this year. I hope the message of SAL makes its way into the minds and hearts of students, parents, and business professionals everywhere. Its presence in the literature is a service to our country—and world.”

As Doctor Anthony—and all other highly proactive self-action leaders—understands, “You get out of something what you are willing to put into it.” Over time, that is just a mathematical reality. In other words, what goes around comes around, and you absolutely reap what you sow in the long-run.

Given these realities, I have been pondering lately on the power of PROACTIVITY in both our personal and professional lives.

It was disciplined and focused proactivity (on my part) over the past 17 years that led to the creation and publication of the SAL Theory, Model, and Textbooks. Similarly, it will be proactivity (on your part) that leads to the effective and productive utilization of this new, cutting-edge, and groundbreaking personal leadership material.

The question is: “To what extent are you willing to do whatever it takes to realize your goals and help your students, athletes, staff members, colleagues, and subordinates to realize theirs?” In other words, how PROACTIVE are you willing to be when it comes to investigating SAL and then ensuring that your students carefully study and apply it as well?

I have been passionate about the concept of proactivity ever since I learned about it from Dr. Stephen Covey back in 2001. Probably more than anyone else in the world, Dr. Covey deserves credit for making the term “PROACTIVE” commonplace in modern English usage. After all, you won’t even find the word in most twentieth century dictionaries. Yet today it is one of the more commonly used words in educational, business, and a variety of other societal lexicons.

In Dr. Covey’s famous book—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People—he selected “Proactivity” as the FIRST habit in his famous model.


Because proactivity is the mindset and habit that makes all other positive actions and achievements possible. Proactivity is like the fuel that makes an airplane fly or an automobile drive. Similarly, it is proactivity that makes Self-Action Leadership (SAL) productively operative in our lives and careers.

Proactive people inspire me because they consist of those relatively few individuals in our communities, organizations, and society-at-large who consistently exercise initiative, work hard, pull their weight (and usually much more), solve problems, and build worthwhile things that last. Everything a proactive person touches tends to accelerate and improve over time. Everything positive, productive, useful, and helpful around us exists because of PROACTIVE PEOPLE.

REACTIVITY is the opposite of PROACTIVITY. Unfortunately, there are usually a lot more reactive people than there are proactive people in any given organization or community.  

Reactive people do not respond to situations productively, rationally, or even sanely. Rather, they react based on their moods, feelings, impulses, environmental conditions, prejudices, misinformation (and false information), and social pressures. Proactive people, on the other hand, respond to situations intelligently and empathetically based on values, standards, laws, order, courtesy, empathy, love, and their own internal consciences, which are continually governed by a principle-centered compass that consistently points to principled ideals Covey describes as “True North.”

In Covey’s words, “Response-ability” [is] the ability to choose your response [regardless of internal or external stimuli or pressure]. Highly proactive persons recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feelings” (See “Be Proactive” Chapter of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

According to Covey, “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person” (Ibid.). In summing up the essence of proactivity, Covey explains that, “We are responsible for our own effectiveness, for our own happiness, and ultimately, I would say, for most of our circumstances” (Ibid.).

That last statement can be tough medicine to take when life gets difficult or seems unfair. And since life is often difficult and seems unfair, we must take a great many doses of this medicine if we are to transcend our difficulties and rise to higher planes on the powerful wings of proactivity. The good news is that the difficulty and the seeming unfairness of life does not negate the power of proactivity in our lives—as long as we are given an opportunity to learn about and practice it.

Perhaps you are wondering why I use the word “seeming” before the word “unfair” in the preceding paragraph. After all, aren’t things often unfair—plain and simple—in life? Furthermore, is it not obvious that things are much more unfair for some people than others? While a one-dimensional or superficial answer to this question would obviously be “YES”, the reality is often deeper and more complicated.

To illustrate my point, consider the fact that historically speaking, some of the greatest and most accomplished persons to ever live in this world were dealt extremely difficult hands at various junctures of their lives. Was it fair that Theodore Roosevelt had to deal with breathtaking asthma growing up, or that Franklin Roosevelt was dealt a devastating blow of polio that put him in a wheelchair in middle life? Was it fair that Abraham Lincoln lacked the money and opportunity to receive a quality formal education? Was it fair that Frederick Douglass was born into slavery or that Helen Keller entered this world deaf and blind? Was it fair that the genius Stephen Hawking became a physical invalid relatively early on in life, or that Christopher Reeve (aka Superman) broke his neck in an equestrian accident in his physical and professional prime? Or what about the profound prejudices and other oppressive forces that Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela had to face? Or the deep and onerous social, cultural, and personal challenges that Oprah Winfrey overcame to become the billionaire media mogul she is today?

In every example listed above, the individuals named were able to achieve success not only in spite of their challenges, but in part because of them. In other words, take away their challenges—the seeming unfairness—and it is possible they would not have risen nearly as high as they did in their lives and careers. That is why, in hindsight, highly successful people often refer to their past by saying: “I wouldn’t change a thing—even if I could.” Such people recognize that their difficulties and challenges were just as important to their overall success as their advantages and benefits—and sometimes even more so—because of what they became due to the extraordinary growth they achieved by overcoming deep and painful obstacles.

This does not mean, of course, that all unfairness is good or desirable. Some unfairness is, in fact, rooted in human error, prejudice, and evil—something that proactive persons of conscience are quick to identify, condemn, and seek to extinguish wherever they find it festering. What it does mean is that seeming unfairness in life almost always contains seeds of opportunity that proactive persons can use to learn, grow, progress, and achieve. As such, the next time you find yourself saying: “It’s not fair,” consider what the other side of the coin might produce over time through personal proactivity. After all, hindsight often demonstrates the tremendous value to be found on the other side of significant life difficulties and challenges. In the words of Garth Brooks’ famous Country Music song: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” 

For the proactive, there is something magical about adversity. It actually makes a person far stronger and more accomplished than they would have been under easier circumstances. Athletes become stronger by lifting heavy weights and persistently pushing through pain, bad weather, injuries, and other adversity—not by coasting downhill with a brisk tailwind at their backs. Why would it be different for human beings in general, either personally or professionally?

For the reactive, however, adversity can be mind-numbing and completely draining; the challenges stop them cold in their tracks. Seemingly unable to go any further, the reactive are then quick to complain about how unfair life is. And from their own limited perspectives, they are right!

How different the world would be if everyone had an equal opportunity to learn about and then practice PROACTIVITY from their youth on up! Unfortunately, far too many individuals throughout our country and world have learned for far too long—from bad examples and poor pedagogy—to confront their personal and professional problems and the seeming unfairness of life reactively rather than proactively.

I personally am no stranger to adversity. From being dealt a devastating case of mental illness (OCD and depression) in my adolescence to confronting significant personal, relational, and professional challenges in young adulthood, my life has not been easy. I imagine yours hasn’t been either. But that doesn’t mean life is irreversibly unfair, or that you are doomed to failure and penury—no matter where you may have started out, or how significant your trials may presently be. I can tell you with certainty that I wouldn't be where I am now in my life or career without the growth and progress obtainable only through successfully surmounting the manifold challenges with which life has dealt me. My trials and crucibles were not fun. They were excruciating. But they have absolutely made me who and what I am today. For that, I wouldn't go back and eradicate them—even if I could.  

There is so much hope for overcoming whatever adversity may come your way in life, especially when you understand the principles and practices of Self-Action Leadership and are willing to be PROACTIVE in your pursuit thereof.

Fortunately, I read Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I was a freshman in college. It changed my life and led to my own diligent pursuit of a similar career. What is the purpose of that career To help educate and inspire others to become highly proactive persons who build things and initiate positive, productive, and meaningful change as opposed to reactive people who blame, shame, complain, and call people names.

One of the most proactive things that any individual can undertake—especially in this day-and-age of short attention spans—is to dedicate time, effort, and energy to deep reading and study about the most important things in life. In other words, to simply sit quietly for substantial periods of time in thoughtful, reflective, and diligent reading and study of high-quality wisdom literature.

I know the value of this activity because of my own life-changing experience reading Covey’s 7 Habits—and other life-changing literature throughout the past three decades of my life. As a result, I spent the last 17 years creating a NEXT-GEN 7 Habits-esque comprehensive personal leadership textbook that leaders, educators, coaches, and parents can use to begin to turn the tide against the pandemic of reactivity we see all around us. But instead of a primarily popular read designed for a corporate environment and the literature of the layman, SAL is a bona fide educational textbook that proactive educators, schools, and even scholars can legitimately embrace—to the benefit of themselves, their staff members, and most importantly—their students.

It takes a LOT of proactivity to spend some of your hard-earned money to buy a long, detailed textbook and then invest the time and effort to read, study, apply its principles, and teach it to others. For those willing to be proactive, I promise you will be empowered with a greater desire and ability to become a solution to the problems you face at home and work—as well as to the challenges presently perplexing our communities, nation, and world. Additionally, you will find yourself gradually and steadily rising to higher levels of growth, success, achievement, happiness, and inner peace.

I have dedicated nearly half my life to creating an educational solution to the preventable and solvable difficulties we see all over America and throughout the world. I plead with persons in positions of power and influence to investigate how this proposed solution can begin to make a palpable difference in the lives of students, workers, and human beings everywhere.

According to Stephen Covey, “Your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you.” How might Self-Action Leadership empower and further the vital work that lies in your future?

There’s only ONE way to find out.

In Summary, PROACTIVE Persons (aka Self-Action Leaders):

· Take the initiative
· Focus on solutions
· Build things

They Are:

· Self-disciplined and focused
· Results oriented
· Willing to try new things and even fail in order to learn. And when they do fail, they immediately pick themselves up, study out a new and better approach, and then try again.

REACTIVE persons, on the other hand:

· Wait for others to take the initiative
· Focus on problems
· Tear people (and things) down

They are:

· Undisciplined and focus on

     o Blaming,
     o Shaming,
     o Complaining, and
     o Name calling

What kind of a person do you want to become?

     What kind of people do you want your students, staff members, or subordinates to become?

          What are you willing to do to realize your desires and objectives?

Freedom Focused is here to help reactive people become Proactive People and proactive people to realize their full potential. We accomplish these objectives in three simple (but not necessarily easy) steps.

1. Read and study the SAL Theory, Model, and Textbooks

2. Enliven and expand upon the material with LIVE TRAINING by myself (Dr. Jordan Jensen) or another Freedom Focused Facilitator.

3. Reiterate and repeat steps one and two with ongoing training, coaching, mentoring, and consulting on a strategically planned or as-needed basis.


Tune in NEXT Wednesday for another article on a Self-Action Leadership related topic.  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, please email freedomfocused@gmail.com and say SUBSCRIBE, or just YES, and we will ensure you receive a link to each new blog article every Wednesday.  

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Jordan Jensen

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbooks

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