When we think of how to take initiative, we usually think in terms of action. After all, not doing anything, procrastinating or holding back are the opposite of taking the initiative, right? We forget that taking initiative begins in the mind. This is where initiative is born and this is where we need to start.
The word 'initiative' comes from the root 'to initiate' or start first. Initiative has been defined in various places as "the power or ability to begin and to follow through", "the action of taking the first step", "readiness to embark on bold new ventures", etc.
While we usually think of initiative in terms of taking action - this is only the end result of taking initiative. The question of how to take initiative begins before we take overt action. Initiative starts first in the mind.
How to take initiative is a skill that can be learned. It's a muscle to be developed. Taking initiative is practice for the mind. It's the practice of stepping out of the mind. There are a number of auxiliary skills - initiative skills if you like - that contribute to taking initiative. Intention, visualization and focus are a few good examples.
Mental initiative begins with being clear on our intentions. What do we want to achieve? What is the end result we're aiming for? Stephen Covey, author of the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" calls this "beginning with the end in mind." In order to begin with the end in mind, our intentions need to be clear. The power of intention has more.
In addition to clear intention we want to be able to actually 'see' the outcome we intend. We want to be able to visualize it. When we manifest what we want to achieve - in our minds eye first - we lay out a mental pathway to our target.
When we visualize our goal unfolding and manifesting in the mind, we call upon and mobilize the creative powers of the subconscious mind. By visualizing our goal we make sure that the powers and resources of the subconscious mind are brought on board.
The last thing we want is to have our intentions set in one direction and our subconscious mind pulling in another. This would introduce resistance, which can readily be eliminated through skilled and consistent visualization. Visualizing our goal helps clear the path to exercising initiatives to the full.
Once our intention is set and we are beginning 'with the end in mind' by visualizing our goal, we need to keep our goal in focus until it's given the time it needs to mature and manifest as a new reality in our lives.
Focus is our ability to overcome distractions and to persevere with determination until our intended goals are achieved. How to take initiative is often about our ability to block out the voices around us that would dissuade us from our intended course of action.
Sometimes these voices don't come at us from others, but from the inside - from our very own mind. Remaining focused and motivated in spite of external and internal 'noise' is to keep our initiative taking muscles alive.
Growing up in society we learn to turn to others to tell us what we should do and where we should go. We look to others for clues as to whether what we intend is right or wrong, doable or impossible, desirable or not. We come to rely exclusively on the opinion and advice of others. We forget ourselves and how to take initiative.
Teaching ourselves how to take initiative as a mental practice is about paying close attention to ourselves. Almost like a weer-wolf learning under what conditions it starts to transform, we take note of the situations, circumstances and conditions under which we are most likely to lose sight of ourselves and be influenced by others.
Initiative is, "to take the first step", as outlined in the onset of this article. This means we must learn to walk alone if we are to develop our initiative muscles strong.
We have our own unique and indelible lives to live just as others have theirs. We can't afford to let our fears and concerns with what others may think or expect of us to get in the way of fulfilling ourselves and walking our path.
Learning how to take initiative sounds simple enough, yet it can be a challenging step because it means we come face-to-face with internal confusion and inner-struggles.
Teaching ourselves how to take initiative means learning how to stay focused and fully intent on the results we want. Others have their own personal agendas and interests to take care of. We should be responsible to our own.
If we don't take charge of our own destiny, the chances are good that we'll become pawns in the unfolding destiny of someone else who is taking initiative.
Doesn't sound fair, does it? Yet, taking the initiative is always an option that's open to us. It's a choice that's always ours to make. Initiative is there for the taking. We either learn the lessons of how to take initiative or we don't. It's up to us, which is as fair as it gets.