Your life is carefully designed by you. The choices are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. But you can also choose to take initiative and take control of your future. Or you can choose to suck your thumb and wait for someone to tell you what to do.
Boom. Sucking your thumb and hanging onto your blankie. Is that what your life is like? You might not think so, but we should all take a long hard look at our behaviors. Do we blame circumstances, the economy, our job, our parents, our spouse, our kids, our bank accounts, health, or general unfairness in life for how we feel and what we do?
Maybe some of the blame it due, but what good comes from blaming? How is it helping us to move forward to live our dreams?
Initiative is the essence of being proactive.
If you see an opportunity and your instinct is to go with it, don't just sit around waiting for people to approve your decision. Take the initiative and go for it!
I was often called a “torch singer” back in the day. I loved singing low, belty, soulful stuff — and would often try to prove a point by singing one for my personal selection at my juries every semester. But it always bothered the voice faculty, who had not yet been convinced that broadway style singing could be “real singing.” So while they gave me generally high grades on my performances, they would often include a comment about how they didn't “approve” of “that style” of music.
Because of my years of very classical training, it didn't occur to me to sing anything but a classical “real” song at auditions. I mean, who would cast me if I was doing that fake, throaty, yelling thing?
When I was in college I was cast in the large-scale, open-audition musical, Rogers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella. This had been a favorite show of mine since I was a very little girl and my sister and I knew every song and sang them endlessly. I was cast as one of the small ensemble who played both the villagers and the ballroom dancers in the ball scene and I was thrilled.
After a few weeks of rehearsal, one of the girls cast as a step-sister (arguably the best parts in the show), was forced to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. The director informed the cast and told us any girls were welcome to audition.
I knew I could sing the brash belt sisters songs — and I knew I hadn't auditioned in a way that gave any indication that I could — but I hung back. Maybe the director would give me a personal invitation. Maybe someone else would suggest me for the part? Finally over a week later I (what was I thinking?) I approached the director and asked if I could audition. She kindly informed me that the auditions had been completed the week before and the role had been filled.
I don't know who actually auditioned, but I do know that the girl who moved into the part wasn't part of the initial cast at all. It was someone who, they explained to us, had been going through a rough patch and needed the part to help her regain her bearings.
It's certainly possible that this would have occurred no matter who auditioned. But it's also possible that no one from the cast auditioned — or no one who could be obnoxious and loud enough — and so they looked elsewhere. While I still have the fondest memories of this show, I will always regret that I held back when I had an opportunity. Waiting around did me no good at all.
Your ability to consistently demonstrate initiative is a true competitive advantage. The reason for it is simple. The vast majority of people lean towards procrastination and hesitation as their operative performance state.
The next chance you get to do an amazing thing may be the only chance you get. If it's something you'd really love to do, don't wait for the time to pass. Advantage goes to initiative!
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