The readiness and ability to initiate action.

— Initiative, 17

an introductory act or step; leading action: to take the initiative in making friends.
readiness and ability in initiating action; enterprise: to lack initiative.
one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on one’s own initiative.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.Chinese Proverb
Initiative is the agent which translates imagination into action.General Lyman L. Lemnitzer
You have to recognize that every ‘out front’ maneuver you make is going to be lonely, but if you feel entirely comfortable, then you’re not far enough ahead to do any good. That warm sense of everything going well is usually the body temperature at the centre of the herd.John Masters
There are many paths, but the only one that leads to the top of the mountain, is the one you make yourself.Ancient Chinese Saying

When you are taking the initiative and are going “outside of the box”, that sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach that you think is a warning bell meant to keep you out of danger, is actually an indicator mechanism to let you know that you are headed in the right direction.


Initiative is defined as “the action of taking the first step or move; the ability to think and act without being urged”. People need to be proactive (do things before they need to be done) instead of reactive (doing things after the need has been identified). Taking the initiative means that you start, on your own, to act and add value to the people in your life.

Reasons why we hold back and are not proactive or don’t take the initiative:

  1. Fear that others may think we are overstepping our boundaries
  2. Procrastination
  3. Fear that we might make a mistake
  4. Laziness
  5. You were taught not to “rock the boat”
  6. Its just not part of your personality style

You may have been expected to ask permission to do virtually everything and it was taken as a sign of respect that you ask before you act. You may also have a behavioral style that lends itself to being more cautious and checking things out before you take action.

When to take the initiative to make decisions:

When you know what needs to be done.

When it is in your realm of authority. You “push” your realm of authority in little steps. If it is “just” beyond a decision that you recently made you are probably OK to make this decision as well. If you are wrong and it was not in your realm of authority – people will let you know when you step too far out of the box.

When it is supporting the team.

Some things you should know about taking the initiative:

When you regularly take the initiative, people will see you as a hard worker, even if you are not working any harder than those who wait for requests.

When you take the initiative, you may get it wrong. People will often forgive you for acting, even if it is not perfect.

Taking initiative is one of the best and fastest ways to get noticed by others and often a leading factor in being considered for expanding your role and position in the organization.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.William J. H. Boetcker
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.George Bernard Shaw
If opportunity doesn’t knock – build a door.Milton Berle
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.Abrahan Lincoln
Initiative is doing the right things without being told.Elbert Hubbard

The Need for Initiative

The word initiative means to have “the ability to assess and initiate things independently”, to “use your initiative, imagination, and common sense”. Think about that for a moment and ask yourself how often you’re initiating and how often you’re just reacting to the situations around you or waiting for someone else to take action. To take initiative, you need to be fearless. You need to be so fed up with the status quo that you’re willing to risk everything in effort to change it. There is a revolution waiting to happen, starting right here, within each of us.

We need to become initiators. We need to revolt against inaction and take initiative. When we see something that needs changing, no matter how small, we need to lead the charge and take initiative. The best way to affect the world around you is by taking the initiative to make changes to your lifestyle so that you become a walking, talking, breathing example of the changes you wish to see in the world.

It’s easy to claim the desire for change without actually taking initiative, but that just makes you a hypocrite. If you aren’t doing everything in your power to make your own life a living example of the change you want to see, then your words are just full of hot air.

Talking is easy, but taking initiative requires courage. It takes real commitment and dedication. It takes perseverance and passion of epic proportions. You need to be so dissatisfied with the results of inaction that you’re prepared to risk everything to see something change.

Four Places to Start Taking Initiative Today

There are lots of places to start, but here are four general areas where I think everyone can find something. Choose an area where you feel the most frustration in your life and then analyze what tiny improvement or change you can make.

  1. At home: Changes at home aren’t always easy, but they are an excellent environment to practice the dedication that’s needed to make changes elsewhere. It’s a perfect place to test the commitment to your own lifestyle changes. While family members might be the most likely to resist change, they are usually the most receptive to your thoughts and opinions. If you speak with love, they will listen with love. In the four spheres of influence — yourself, your family, your community, the planet — being able to implement changes at home is practically a prerequisite to implementing changes in the community or the planet. It’s not a requirement, but the skills and lessons that you learn will prepare you for bigger challenges. Start small, speak with love, and explain why the change is beneficial. Most of all, don’t just participate in the change, lead the way. Be the initiator. Any flakiness in your own commitment will translate into excuses for others not to follow.
  2. At work: Do you have suggestions for how things at work could be done differently? Bring your ideas to management or directly to your boss. Be mindful of the attitude that you bring to work. How do you relate with your co-workers? How do you greet them? Do you take your stress and anger out on them? If your work environment isn’t conducive to health and harmony, ask yourself how it could be changed. Talk with your co-workers and see what they think could be improved or changed. Collaborate with each other and be the one to take the initiative to lead.
  3. In your community: Communities are everywhere. Your family is a community. Your office is a community. Your neighborhood and your circle of friends are a community. Do you see something they’re doing that is contradictory to what you believe is right? Take a stand a voice your opinion. Ask yourself how you could approach the situation to initiate change.
  4. In your lifestyle: Changing your lifestyle isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably the hardest thing to do, especially if your desired lifestyle is a lot different from what you’re familiar with or if you don’t have any good lifestyle role models. However, modifying your lifestyle is also the most effective way of initiating change. When you learn how to become the change you wish to see, you empower yourself with the confidence and fearlessness necessary to initiate further change around you.

It’s Time To Take Action

It all starts with taking one step. One step towards changing something that you wish was different. Ask yourself, what’s the next step? Then focus on completing that step. It doesn’t need to be the most dramatic thing or the step that will create the most change. Taking any step in the right direction is better than being frozen in a state of inaction. What’s one thing in your life that you want to change? It could be an element of your lifestyle, something at home or at work, or even something in your community.

Never be afraid to tread the path alone. Know which is your path and follow it wherever it may lead you. Do not feel you have to follow in someone else’s footsteps.Eileen Caddy
I daresay one profits more by the mistakes one makes off one’s own bat than by doing the right thing on somebody else’s advice.W. Somerset Maugham
Rash indeed is he who reckons on tomorrow, or happily on the days beyond it; for tomorrow is not, until today is past.Sophocles

The “Secret” To Success is Initiative

In essence taking initiative means to take full responsibility for your current reality. If you want better relationships it’s up to you to create them. Want better grades? Then study more. Want a healthier body? Those exercises don’t do themselves. Want to experience financial abundance? It’s up to you to create and market value.

The main reason for most shortages in your life are simply the result of a lack of initiative.

While taking initiative may seem too simple to be the “secret” to success, but it has worked for millions of people. In fact, most people who are successful simply tried harder.

The Belief of Entitlement and The Problem With Not Moving

So many people desire success yet so few are willing to put in the work. Far too many people feel that they are “entitled” to success just by being themselves. And even though anyone given a chance can achieve prosperity, it doesn’t just happen overnight. Success rarely just falls into your lap. Creating the life you want takes effort.

Initiative is the world’s greatest currency. The more action you take the more opportunity you have. If you sit on your rear and do nothing your initiative bank account will eventually run out. The great thing about the Bank of Initiative is that it has unlimited funds, the only requirement is that you move. Find an area I which you lack, and work to improve that area.

Taking initiative doesn’t mean you can’t be content with the present moment, rather when you take initiative you’re being grateful for the opportunities in your life.

People who think that they are “owed” success just for being themselves constantly find themselves unhappy. We enjoy success because of the work we put in to reach it. An easy victory rarely stays on the front of our mind, but when we win a battle through blood sweat and tears that journey remains forever ingrained in our heart.

When you sit back and wait for everything to fall into place you’re letting the world pass by. Lack of experiences occur from laziness.

Initiative Wins The Race

A good portion of our population rarely takes initiative. Instead they are always relying on the effort of someone else. They want to be a great athlete without training hard. They want to get good grades, but they sleep in class and never do homework. They want to be rich, but never venture out beyond that dead end job.

It’s absolutely amazing what you can accomplish when you accept that you are fully responsible for your life.

The only thing between your dreams and you is initiative. The amount of resources we possess is extraordinary, deeming our once valid excuses worthless.

As you begin to take more initiative you may notice how amazing it feels to be the creator of your reality. Follow that feeling.

Take The First Step

If you’re looking to change your life all you must do is take the first step. The path won’t always be smooth, but it’s better than doing nothing and sitting on your butt.

Take the first step, step outside your comfort zone for only then will you begin to succeed.

Success comes from taking the initiative and following up… persisting… eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?Anthony Robbins
The important thing is to concentrate upon what you can do – by yourself, upon your own initiative.Harry Browne
I’ve always had confidence. It came because I have lots of initiative. I wanted to make something of myself.Eddie Murphy
Philosophers should consider the fact that the greatest happiness principle can easily be made an excuse for a benevolent dictatorship. We should replace it by a more modest and more realistic principle / the principle that the fight against avoidable misery should be a recognized aim of public policy, while the increase of happiness should be left, in the main, to private initiative.Karl Popper
We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can…in the acquisition of a new habit, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided initiative as possible. Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life.William James
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.William Hutchinson Murray

Its often easier to beg for forgiveness than it is to get permission

There’s going to be times when you go ahead and do something, and end up making a mistake and getting in trouble. However, a mistake here or there, from someone who takes initiative and makes decisions for themselves, is going to be forgiven a lot faster, than someone sitting around and waiting for someone to make decisions for them. So next time you’re in a situation where you aren’t sure if you should take a risk and go with your gut, go ahead and take the initiative.

Do not lie in a ditch, and say God help me; use the lawful tools He hath lent thee.English proverb
Eagles don’t flock.Ross Perot
What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance; it doesn’t come every day.George Bernard Shaw

What does taking initiative mean for young people?

Some young people choose to participate in diverse and challenging activities, remain motivated in the face of obstacles, and persist until they accomplish their goals. These youth are said to have initiative. Initiative is the motivation to direct effort toward achieving challenging goals and remain determined even when things get difficult.

Young people with initiative are personally invested in their activities; exert attention, effort, and concentration in complex and challenging real-world situations; and continue working to achieve their goals, even if it involves re-evaluating and adjusting their strategies in the face of setbacks.

Similar to initiative, the concepts of “self-efficacy” and “self-regulated learning” have also been used to describe young people that are motivated and persistent. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their ability to achieve what they set out to do. Young people with a higher sense of self-efficacy set more challenging goals for themselves, try harder, persevere in difficult times, bounce back more quickly after failures, and are eventually more successful. Such young people believe that their abilities are not inherent and unchangeable, but are, instead, a set of skills that can be learned and further developed. These youth consider errors and mistakes part of the natural learning process, and they focus on the improvement of their personal abilities rather than comparing themselves to others. They also believe that their environments and outcomes are controllable and changeable, and that they are capable of determining their own outcomes. Finally, these youth are self-regulated learners who realize their strengths and limits, set their own goals, adopt their own strategies for achieving these goals, and monitor their own progress.

Why is it important for youth to face challenges and take initiative?

Youth development programs must help young people develop initiative and learn to face challenges in order to prepare them to succeed in today’s rapidly changing world. Because of the increasing complexity of life in the 21st century, young people will need to be up to the challenge of deliberately “reinventing themselves” and their life courses in response to the globalization of society and ever-varying occupational demands.

The ability to face challenges and take initiative is also important for young people because it is essential to becoming a life-long learner. Life-long learners, who must be equipped to direct their own learning and development (especially following their formal schooling), are characterized as demonstrating perseverance, initiative, and adaptive abilities. However, even before young people make the transition into the world of work, they must be able to take initiative to meet challenges on their own. In middle school, and certainly in high school and college, students face more challenging homework, are required to initiate their own studying, and are held responsible for completing a wide range of assignments. Clearly, as they move on to enter a challenging workforce in this “information age” where the need for technical knowledge and skills is ever-growing, young people will have to be self-initiated learners to succeed.

Finally, young people who can face challenges and take initiative are more able to avoid participation in a number of problem behaviors. Specifically, research has shown that adolescents with a higher sense of self-efficacy perceive themselves as having a greater ability to refuse unwanted sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Such adolescents are also less likely to be involved in risky sexual behavior, delinquency, and drug use.

How can we help young people face challenges and take initiative in our community?

  • Create projects, programs, and organizations that (1) are youth-based and motivate young people to determine the direction and goals of the activities, (2) engage young people in environments that include real-world challenges that are well-matched to their abilities, and (3) involve activities that are continued over time and require young people to monitor, regulate, and plan for the course ahead;
  • Encourage young people to evaluate their performances according to objective criteria rather than the judgments of others;
  • Listen to young people and ask them questions, check for understanding, and offer assistance in a caring way that does not deter young people with poor self-perceptions from seeking help when they need it;
  • Give young people choices about what activities to engage in, how to accomplish their projects, and with whom they want to work;
  • Collaborate with young people about how to grapple with problems, and help them make sense of their personal experiences and new knowledge and ideas;
  • Help young people generate new strategies when they do not achieve what they intend to achieve;
  • Teach young people how to set specific, challenging short-term goals, rather than vague long-term goals;
  • Readily admit your own mistakes so that young people come to understand that mistakes are an unavoidable part of life and may be surmounted.
The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.George Eliot
Venture nothing, and life is less than it should be.Malcolm Forbes
Success comes to the person who does today what you were thinking about doing tomorrow.Unknown

The Power of Initiative

Have you ever been stuck in a rut? Do you feel like you know what needs to be done but just can’t seem to get around to doing it? If so, your initiative may be in short supply. Initiative is what helps us make things happen. It’s a sense of motivation we either naturally have or must work to muster. And it’s important, because a lack of initiative can contribute to bitterness and depression. And research has proven that a lack of initiative can be bad for your health.

Does something need to change?

If you’re frustrated because you have a hard time making changes, the resulting stress can be positively awful. You could even be setting yourself up for cardiovascular disease or cancer. The fact is, your body and mind are deeply linked. In this case, the ability to set priorities and act on them is associated with greater longevity and better overall health.

How does it work?

Initiative is what gets you off your duff and gets you moving. It’s about learning to let go of the fear or lack of confidence that might be holding you back. Initiative is the catalyst that starts things in motion. While there are no guarantees that everything will turn out as planned, at least you’ve taken a first step. Because the alternative ― staying where you are and feeling guilty or depressed about your lack of progress ― is generally worse.

Why are some people more motivated than others?

People who procrastinate or have a hard time making things happen typically aren’t lazy. They often have extremely high standards and don’t want to fail. Or sometimes they are individuals who get overwhelmed by possibilities and don’t know how or where to start. If this sounds familiar, you could probably use a little help and encouragement. Your EAP is a great place to start.

When do you need initiative most?

Maybe you’re unable to get started with a diet or exercise program. Or get out of a relationship you know is not good for you. Or you want to go back to school but keep putting it off. In these instances and more, a little initiative might be in order. It can help you get out of unhealthy situations. And it’s also what can take you in the direction of your dreams.

Where can you find it?

Some people have tons of initiative. They’re running on all cylinders and have all kinds of irons in the fire. But most of us could use a boost now and then ― or at least a supportive cheerleader. Because initiative requires resolve and discipline. You need to make a plan and stick with it. Or at least get your feet wet and dive in. And if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a greater sense of confidence and maybe even improved physical health.

Take stands, take risks, take responsibility.Muriel Siebert
Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.Orison Swett Marden
A weak man has doubts before a decision, a strong man has them afterwards.Karl Kraus

How “Lack of Employee Initiative” Is Hindering Business Growth

By Kris Cavanaugh

Do your employees do “just enough” to make it through the day? Do they just “survive” until the five o’clock whistle blows or “strive” for excellence throughout the day? If your employees are just surviving instead of thriving, then how do you change their working habits? Without firing everyone, how do you improve employee morale and increase your profits?

Answer: By creating a work environment that encourages initiative!

What is initiative?

Initiative is the power or ability to follow through with a plan or task energetically, with creativity and determination. The definition of the word “initiative” is interesting because it just doesn’t mean someone taking the bull by the horns and going above and beyond the norm.

A person has to be given the power or ability to take initiative, and that empowerment starts from the top down.

Why is initiative important for successful businesses?

Companies that encourage a “CEO Mindset,” where everyone’s input and ideas are encouraged, are more successful than those that don’t. Why would you want to empower and encourage your employees to have a “CEO Mindset”?

Experience has shown that when a collective group of workers (employees) individually think like an owner, assume responsibility like an owner, and take initiative like an owner – in a structured environment – your entire company takes leaps and bounds forward. This is a very different experience than a struggling company where the “dead weight” of uninspired employees drags the company behind their competitors.

Great C.E.O.s understand that an employee culture of “just doing enough to make due” will hinder a company from realizing its full potential.

Sometimes the best way to learn is by example. Avoid the mistakes that others have made before you, and follow the examples of successes of others!

Infosys Technologies Limited is one of the most successful companies in the world and posts annual revenues of more than $6 Billion. How has Infosys become so successful? One way is by creating an environment that encourages initiative.

Infosys invites some of its top producers under the age of 30 each year to its senior management council meetings. The young employees are invited to share their ideas with senior managers in an effort to foster growth – both personal and professional.

This type of a business environment most definitely encourages employees to do much more than what is in their job descriptions. This results in a company with INCREASED profits and employees who feel valued and motivated to take initiative.

Taking initiative means improving business processes

Toyota Motor Corp., another very successful company, encourages initiative by having their employees search for ways to enhance and streamline production processes. This has helped Toyota save money, improve its internal processes, and strengthen its relationship with its suppliers.

Southwest Airlines is one aviation company that took the initiative to combat rising gas and oil prices to thrive in today’s challenging economy. Southwest went against the norm by implementing a new idea: they formed a team of employees from upper management all the way to ground maintenance that met once a week for six months for brainstorming sessions designed to create ideas on how to lower costs and increase productivity.

This approach helped to encourage Southwest employees to take initiative and suggest new ways of doing business. Southwest’s C.I.O., Tom Nealon, said that employees were able to identify questions about other departments and their processes that had not been asked before which led to innovative solutions that helped them gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The bottom line – initiative leads to business growth

Employees who feel like their opinions are valued tend to be happier and more productive.

Every employee at every company is hired to do a job and is given a job description for a reason – so they will know what is expected of them on a daily basis. But how often have you heard an employee of a company say, “That’s not in my job description?”

Employees often joke that when they have to do something that isn’t in their job description, it’s because that task falls under “other duties as assigned.” However, if employees are encouraged to take initiative and contribute ideas their productivity increases.

Creating a work environment that encourages initiative will end the talk of “that’s not in my job description.” Instead, it encourages employees to say things like “Hey, have we ever thought of doing something this way?” Developing this kind of “culture” is one of your best ways to maintain your competitive advantage!

The marketplace for your industry gets increasingly competitive for the attention of your prospects and customers, so gain the competitive advantage over your competition by creating an “environment of initiative” within your organization – Do it now!

Well begun is half done.Aristotle
The wisest men follow their own direction.Euripides
Your task is to stand straight; not to be held straight.Marcus Aurelius

How to Take Initiative

Haven’t been real motivated lately? Well it is time to initiative. Initiative is having a go-getter attitude. It is about being positive and looking to take the next step. Without initiative, missed opportunities can become a problem. Take your job for example. Let’s say you don’t show initiative when performing tasks and show poor performance at your tasks. You might not have a job for long. So here is how to take initiative.

  1. First become a doer. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you what needs to be done. Look for a task to perform. Work confidently and diligently and complete your goal. When that is completed, look to start working on another task.
  2. Next, know what your goals are. Strive and work towards your goals. Look for simple ways to reach your desired goal. Obstacles will always get in your way. Just overcome it, and if you can’t do by yourself. Find someone to help you.
  3. Know that with every action there is a reaction. Start with what you can and worry about the stuff you can’t later. Whatever action you take it will produce results. For example if you had to mow the lawn. The lawn mower is in the shop and all you have to use is a weed whacker. Start on the weeds and mow the lawn later. Now you have one less thing to do on your lawn.
  4. Lastly, Do it right away. Anytime is a good time to start on a task or goal. Once the idea is fresh in your head it is easier to work on it. Just be motivated and stay positive.
A man who has to be convinced to act before he acts is not a man of action. You must act as you breathe.Georges Clemmanceau
A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.Rosalynn Carter
We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.George Bernard Sha

Symptoms of The Fear of Failure (A root cause for a lack of initiative)

INDIFFERENCE: Commonly expressed through lack of ambition; willingness to tolerate failure; acceptance of whatever compensation life may offer without protest; mental and physical laziness; lack of initiative, imagination, enthusiasm and self-control

INDECISION: The habit of permitting others to do one’s thinking. Staying “on the fence.”

DOUBT: Generally expressed through alibis and excuses designed to cover up, explain away, or apologize for one’s failures, sometimes expressed in the form of envy of those who are successful, or by criticizing them.

WORRY: Usually expressed by finding fault with others, a tendency to spend beyond one’s income, neglect of personal appearance, scowling and frowning; intemperance in the use of alcohol, sometimes through the use of narcotics; nervousness, lack of poise, self-consciousness and lack of self-reliance.

OVER-CAUTION: The habit of looking for the negative side of every circumstance, thinking and talking of possible failure instead of concentrating upon the means of succeeding, Knowing all the roads to disaster, but never searching for the plans to avoid failure. Waiting for “the right time” to begin putting ideas and plans into action, until the waiting becomes a permanent habit. Remembering those who have failed, and forgetting those who have succeeded. Seeing the hole in the doughnut, but overlooking the doughnut. Pessimism,

PROCRASTINATION: The habit of putting off until tomorrow that which should have been done yesterday. Spending so much time on creating alibis and excuses that if you would have put that time on the project at hand you would have had the job done a long time ago. This symptom is closely related to over-caution, doubt and worry. Refusal to accept responsibility when it can be avoided. Willingness to compromise rather than put up a stiff fight. Compromising with difficulties instead of harnessing and using them as stepping stones to advancement. Bargaining with Life for a penny, instead of demanding prosperity, success, contentment and happiness. Planning what to do IF AND WHEN OVERTAKEN BY FAILURE, INSTEAD OF BURNING ALL BRIDGES AND MAKING RETREAT IMPOSSIBLE. Weakness of, and often total lack of self-confidence, definiteness of purpose, self-control, initiative, enthusiasm, ambition, thrift and sound reasoning ability. EXPECTING FAILURE INSTEAD OF DEMANDING SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF. Association with those who accept failure instead of seeking the company of those who demand and receive success.

Never relinquish the initiative.Charles de Gaulle
Organization can never be a substitute for initiative and for judgment.Louis D. Brandeis
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.Abraham Lincoln
Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.Daisaku Ikeda
Prolonged idleness paralyzes initiativeUnknown

 Teaching initiative to children

Studies show that more and more children lack initiative today. Initiative is defined as the ability to assess and initiate things independently.

But how can we tell that a child has initiative?

A child with initiative will arrive home and put his backpack away and the dirty containers from lunch in the sink. A child lacking it will leave the backpack at the door when he arrives.

We see these two types often in families with more than one child, usually, the oldest child arrives home leaves the back pack in the way and the second one puts all his things away… but how can this be? They are siblings, after all. Well, could it be that their parents did everything for the oldest child but, because they were busier, had the second child do more things for himself?

Children do not learn initiative by themselves, they need to be taught. And how can we foment it in them? Don’t do everything for them! If your child spills milk, ask him to bring a couple of rags so he can help you clean the spill; after dinner, ask him to bring his plate to the kitchen or simply have them help you around the house. If they have a problem, ask them for an opinion on what to do about it, give him options, and help him solve it.

Development theorist Erikson said that children develop initiative between the ages 4 and 7 while going through a stage called “Initiative vs Guilt” in which a positive outcome is called “purpose”. He also believed that if a child does not reach the positive outcome during this time, not only that child would never be able to reach it, he would also not be able to complete the next stages of development.

Then, what does that tell us about children without initiative? What could they be missing? The following stage (or psychosocial crisis as Erikson called them) is “Industry vs Inferiority”. It happens between ages 7-11 and its positive outcome is “competence”. Here the child learns to master the more formal skills of life:

  1. Relating with peers according to rules
  2. Progressing from free play to play that may be elaborately structured by rules and may demand formal teamwork
  3. Mastering social studies, reading, and arithmetic. Homework is a necessity, and the need for self-discipline increases yearly.

As per Erikson, the child that, as a result of successfully resolving earlier psychosocial crisis, is trusting, autonomous, and full of initiative, will learn easily enough to be industrious. However, the mistrusting child (a child without initiative) will doubt the future and will experience defeat and inferiority.

You may or may not agree with Erikson and his theories, but it’s hard to negate that children will be better off with having more initiative.

Initiative is doing the right things without being toldElbert Hubbard
Notice carefully that sound judgment must precede the exercise of initiativeCharles Gow

Taking Initiative

By Joey Berrios.

We all have the fear of rejection. We all have the fear of putting ourselves out there. We all have the fear of taking a risk. We all have the fear of failing. We all have a part of ourselves that wants to play it safe and hold back when it comes to our personal creativity and innovation.

Seth Godin says the following about our fear of taking initiative in his book Poke the Box: “The simple thing that separates successful individuals from those who languish is the very thing that separates exciting and growing organizations from those that stagnate and die. The winners have turned initiative into a passion and a practice. The challenge, it turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.”

Fear holds us back from personal breakthroughs and innovation. Fear keeps us from speaking up when we have a great idea. Fear keeps us from creating something beautiful that can enhance the lives of others. Fear causes us to be mediocre. If we are not careful, fear can rob us of our creativity and passion. By playing it safe, we rob ourselves of the difference we can truly make as leaders in the lives of others.

One of the greatest qualities of a leader is the ability to take initiative. A great leader does not wait to be told what to do: he finds what needs to be done and does it. A great leader understands that he must fight to keep himself from being controlled by fear and doubt.

Is there a project you have been dragging your feet on? Is there an idea that you are passionate about? Is there a goal that you want to accomplish? Don’t let fear keep you from taking the necessary steps to reach your desired future. Yes, you will have haters. Yes, your ideas might not always workout the way that you planned. But what option do you really have? You cannot afford to do nothing. You must step out and take a risk. You must take initiative and bring your dream to life.

Success comes to those who are extraordinary. There are far too many people who are playing it safe in our world today. Our world needs leaders who are willing to take the risks necessary to bring their ideas to life. Playing it safe and refusing to take risks will only chain us to mediocrity. By taking initiative, we can begin to see our creativity and innovation make an impact on our world.

The four cornerstones of character on which the structure of this nation was built are: Initiative, Imagination, Individuality and IndependenceEdward Vernon Rickenbacker
Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.Jesse Jackson
Organization can never be a substitute for initiative and for judgment.Louis D. Brandeis

How to Think ‘Outside of the Box

No doubt you’ve heard the term to “think outside the box”. Perhaps you’ve wondered what that meant in actual fact, or you know what it means but you’re so firmly “inside the box” that you don’t even notice that you’re in the box. Here are some things that will help you grow initiative by thinking outside the box.

Get Ready for Change

Be prepared for a big change. Be prepared for a big change. To re-educate yourself and the way you think is almost a “lifestyle” change. Basically, you’re re-inventing the wheel and you are the wheel. Indications that it might be time to change your way of thinking include:

  • You’re in a rut, you know you’re in a rut, and no matter what you try, you fall back into the rut.
  • You can’t come up with a solution to a nagging problem. Finally, someone else does and the answer was an incredibly obvious one; it happens a lot.

Learn the terms for Change.

Learn the terms. If you’re familiar with the terms, you’ll be in a great position to do some research into out-of-the-box thinking. Some of the terminology for modes of “thinking outside of the box” are:

  • Reframing
  • Lateral thinking
  • Process improvements.

Understand your Creativity Level

Understand that, for a given problem, some people tend to come up with the more “creative” solutions. The inability to do so does not reflect a person’s intelligence. What it does indicate is that people with such solutions are the ones who are more willing, or need, to push themselves out of their comfort zone to get the answers they seek. The principal characteristics for those who think outside of the box are usually:

  • A willingness to take new perspectives toward day-to-day work.
  • Capable of thinking differently with an open mind, think about the substance of issues, and be receptive to doing things differently.
  • Focused on the value of finding new ideas and acting on them.
  • Ready to strive to create value in newer ways.
  • Capable of listening to, supporting, nurturing and respecting others when they come up with new ideas. The driving force behind a lot of people who consistently think outside of the box is frustration. They don’t feel that “enough” is being done, and that the “normal” way of thinking just isn’t getting it done.

Learn What is Holding you Back.

Learn what inhibits your ability to change. The following characteristics lessen your ability to make a positive change in your thinking methods:

  • Negative attitude.
  • Fear of failure, perfectionism.
  • Executive stress, or other stress.
  • Following rules, bound to black and white thinking (not flexible, unable to perceive the value in gray areas).
  • Making assumptions – about others, about the world, about the expectations you feel weighing on you, about your own abilities.
  • Over-reliance on logic, along with assuming you have an accurate grasp of what is logical.

Challenge all Assumptions

Just because it has always been that way, doesn’t mean that it has to continue to be that way. In fact, by expecting things to never change, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of pain and unhappiness when things – and people – do change around you, without taking you along. Ways to challenge assumptions include:

  • Ask questions.
  • Don’t ignore your questions; give them free rein.
  • Stop jumping to hasty conclusions. Haste makes waste and can leave you in hot water. Reflect over things until the better answer arrives.
  • Look at something a different way, literally. Perhaps you’ve been hammering out a new design for something at work. You’ve been looking at this design for weeks, always in the same position. Try shifting it. Turn the design upside down, or take it out into the sunshine under the trees, or project it into the ceiling and have all of your co-workers lie in the floor to observe it. You’ll be amazed at what a position change can do for assumptions and perspective.

Break the Routine

Doing the same thing, day in and day out, will dull even the smartest person’s mind. Find ways of minimizing routine in your life, while still embracing ritual – the two approaches are very different in result. Ritual is about daily or regular activities that center you, keep you well (such as exercise), and give you a sense of place and identity. Routine is about the things that cause you to fall into a rut, respond without thinking, and that often feel imposed upon you from elsewhere. Change it up, occasionally. Do things differently.

  • Instead of photocopying all the documents first thing in the morning, email them around to everyone and tell them the copier’s broken. Next morning, email everything again, telling everyone how well yesterday went and that you’ve decided to do it like this from now on.
  • Change your appearance and clothes. Many a rut is given a swift kick when you treat yourself to a new look. It’s a start, and a really fun one at that.
  • Walk a different way to work, catch a bus instead of driving, bring your lunch in instead of eating out (or vice versa), go home early for a change.


Brainstorming can do amazing things to help you think outside-the-box. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Think of vague keywords like “coffee” and follow whatever this leads to next in your mind, and take it as far as you can go; this can lead to interesting ideas. For example: “Coffee” -> “Milk” -> “Spilled” -> “Unspillable milk and coffee container”.
  • Do brain teasers, puzzles, psychometric tests, etc., and challenge your brain to new ways of doing and seeing things.
  • If you hated math, English or science, try it again; this time make yourself do it well. Force your mind to think down different pathways.
  • Learn a new language, a new way of keeping inventory, a new way to be a great boss or lover.
  • Write poems. Poems can spark your creative thinking.
  • Visualize work or home solutions through drawing pictures rather than writing things down.

Explore Laterally and Learn from Other Industries

Think laterally. Think laterally. It can be really beneficial to learn about how people do it in other walks of life. Whether you’re a CEO, an engineer, a stay-at-home mom, or a teacher, there are ways of thinking laterally that can benefit what you’re doing. Read about processes and solutions in industries different from the one you’re working in. Chances are there are some amazing answers for you to uncover and apply to your situation.

The same goes for cross-disciplinary studies. Instead of staying within your own expertise, branch out and investigate what other disciplines are doing in areas or topics that interest you. There may be some surprising connections worth uncovering and adapting.

Sit down and talk with others who know nothing about what you’re doing but are willing listeners. Explain your situation and challenges and ask for their thoughts on solutions.

Bring Your Child to Work

There is nothing quite so re-energizing as the fresh, unwearied viewpoint of a child. It’s not that your child is cleverer than you; it’s just that your child is less worn down, more open to speaking their mind in a forthright manner, and usually unafraid to use what creativity they possess. Why not give your child a look at the situation or problem before you? Ask them what they’d do. And listen to their answer very carefully; take it to heart and use the freshness of perspective they bring to your thinking to help re-energize your outlook.

Stay Rested and Fresh

Plenty of sleep and regular vacations drive off boxed-in thinking Take your vacations. They’re not given to you for collecting and wearing around your neck like a martyr’s cross. They’re given to you so that you can go away and refresh your thinking, your body, your mind, your soul. The refreshed you is worth infinitely more to the company than the worn-out and irritable, frazzled, in-a-rut you.

Take the Initiative to Promote Virtue

Ten years ago, to imagine that young people getting proactively involved in community and social change to the degree that they are now days would have seemed a fantasy, and now it’s happening all around us. With the multitudes of youth-run or youth-focused organizations and projects in the country, a communal revolution doesn’t seem too far off. Many young people seem to be involved with one or more ‘causes’ and volunteerism has become very popular. At the same time, it seems as though we adults however, have backed off on our enthusiasm for making social change.

Volunteers and supporters by definition are a floating mass of people – they are designed to contribute actively over a short period of time. The challenge lies with transforming this fluid crowd into informed active citizens for social change, who take their responsibility towards their community as a way of life, and not just a great conversation to share over a good cup of coffee.

The cruel reality is that unless a “critical mass” of folks buys into any social movement, it will stay limited to only a small group of people. Even when it does propagate to a larger audience, it no longer stays ‘shared’ – it becomes amicably imposed. Proliferation of the “cause” resulted because a dedicated visionary was able to move a large number of people in a specific way, as opposed to these people observing, adopting, and moving forward such a vision on their own power.

Let’s not let Virtue First fall into that trap. I am asking you to adopt the vision of promoting the merits of virtue with the people in your circle of influence, and integrate the Virtue First vision into your daily work, home, and social life. How?

We live at a time of immense untapped human potential. Our 21st century technological revolution has brought with it a huge amount of possibilities, and through the use of new and rapidly growing media, the power to utilize these possibilities has never been simpler. The opportunity to make social change through the use of technology is right at your fingertips. Use that technology to promote virtue. Make spreading the good news about virtue a part of your everyday life. Imagine how many people you can impact today, tomorrow, this week, next week, next month, through the use of email, texting, Facebook, and our website. Turn people on to “Virtue”.

Then stand back and watch the domino effect. The virtue of one individual, through sharing, becomes socially relevant to another, hence allowing them to share virtue with their broader circle of influence. Potential virtue promoters– who may have simply been touched by virtue in a situation or event – turned to active promoters of virtue as they move through their daily lives.

I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me following an event promoting virtue and said “I wish I would have known sooner that there were people out there who value virtue as much as I do.” “I would have been more open to sharing it with other people”.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.Mark Twain