We can’t stop trouble from happening. It’s a sneaky foe that likes to surprise us. Sometimes, it comes up when we least expect it. But while we can’t stop it from ever happening, we can put measures in place to prevent more trouble from happening.
My friend knows about these measures, and to illustrate it, he tells a story about a waterfall in middle of a park. The park rangers knew that the waterfall was easily accessible to the public. They saw the inherent danger if one person were to slip on the rocks by the water and go tumbling down the waterfall. Yet instead of doing anything, they let it be, thinking that not many people would venture that far out into the park.
Then one day, someone slipped on the rocks and ended up at the bottom of the waterfall.
I honestly don’t know if this story is true or not, but my friend uses it as an example to illustrate the benefits of being proactive.
You see, there were a number of options the park rangers could have taken to prevent this trouble from happening. They could have put signs out or put a guardrail up.
The reason we don’t do preventive measures in our life is because of the trouble doing it in the present. I have another friend who complains that the busyness of his life stops him from getting his finances in order now. Another friend says she can’t build her business doing more writing because of all that she has on her plate now.
Not doing these things in the present keeps us stuck or in more trouble in the future.
The solution then is to be proactive—putting in place the measures that will save us time and energy in the future.
I love how Jesus was proactive with His disciples. When He tells Peter that he’ll deny Him three times, He forgives Him before He commits this action. When the disciples see Jesus at the end of John, Jesus is waiting for them on the shore with a fire already going. Jesus doesn’t waste any time. He knows how to address things that could be bigger problems in the future.
We could do the same, but it involves changing our habits.
Being proactive rather than reactive is a habit. Many of us have normalized the behavior of reacting to our troubles when they get worse rather than acting on them ahead of time. And this habit is costing us valuable time and energy.
To change this habit, we need to alter our response (or routine) whenever we first hear of troubles that could be bigger in the future.
For instance, the moment you think your car could use some maintenance, schedule a time to visit your mechanic. When you first hear of an employee having trouble, delegate someone to check up on him or her.
The way I learned to be proactive about my problems is by implementing David Allen’s “do, delegate, or defer” rule. When an action will take less than two minutes, do it. When you don’t have to be the person who does the action, delegate it. And when an action will take longer than two minutes, defer it only by scheduling a time in the future to address it.
In the past, I used to always put off the items I didn’t want to do. But whenever I did this, the problem always escalated. A relationship died or my workload grew bigger. When I saw how much time I was wasting by being reactive to my problems only when they got worse, I decided to address this nasty habit of mine. I focused on my response, and with deliberate practice of the “do, delegate, defer” rule, I was able to save a lot of trouble.
This can happen for you too. Choose to be proactive about your problems and you’ll suddenly have more time and energy to put toward the things that matter.