An amusing incident took place in a road side as I walked to home one day. A stack of banana peels lay in the middle of the road causing trouble to the passing vehicles and commuters. Naturally, it attracted hordes of swearing on municipality, infuriating glares and the famous, pan-India “Kya hoga is desh ka?” snide comments from the passers-by. Just as I resumed walking, an elderly lady with a walking stick strode in the middle of the road, crouched low, picked up the banana peels with her bare hands, dumped it into a nearby roadside dustbin and simply walked away! Her so enlighteningly simple act put the onlookers, including me, instantly to shame. No doubt, I, like others, wondered guiltily why I hadn’t thought to act in the first place!
The above scene, to my conscience, can be considered as the finest example of what I would call – Initiative. The Oxford dictionary aptly describes it as –the ability to decide and act on your own without waiting for somebody to tell you what to do. You will agree if I succinctly coin it as the “action-taking syndrome of a human being!” Oh yes, whatever other qualities we may possess, the initiative factor is an inevitable prerequisite to any desired outcome.
Each of us has a deeply rooted desire to achieve success in our life. It wouldn’t be wrong if I say that each of us think out a brilliant plan in our mind, a plan to succeed, a plan to rise to the top. But analyze carefully – how many of us actually achieve success? Few, isn’t it? And those few are the ones who really put their thoughts into action! They are willing to take first step into the unknown ignoring what would others say and that’s what singles them out from others. The first step is nothing but initiative.
Let us think of initiative as a ubiquitous factor. It is everywhere, omnipresent in every wake of our life. Believe me, if you ponder meticulously and analyze your day-today routine, you would be surprised that life really offers abundant opportunities where you could have taken your own initiative and thus, could have improved as a person. The catch point is that these opportunities are really small ones - like a small act of kindness or a small act of courage, and so on. Proactive thinking is the bait that catches this fish of opportunity. The impact is definitely impactful on others. The act done by the elderly lady in the above example was really small and simple. But the impact that it put on others was certainly resounding.
Starting a new business or venture, helping a blind crossing a road, being a helping hand to your spouse or parents or colleagues at home or office, deciding to change a bad habit or adopt a new habit, or anything – requires you take the first step on your own.
Initiative - the first step - is a tree from which branches out qualities like discipline, courage, and so on and help us succeed in every aspect of or life.
Let me illustrate some examples as to how initiatives can be taken to build discipline in your work or at home.
Mr. Z, a late-comer, races to his office. His boss immediately demands a file which he ought to have completed the previous evening. In desperate rush, he enters his office room only to find an added trouble: everything disorganized, unclean and jumbled up. The file in demand is somewhere lost in the mountain of mess. Mr. Z’s habits are not uncommon in us.
Instead of depending on others, you can always clean up your table, computer, desks. Before leaving from the office, make sure to arrange the files in their proper place. You can even finish your backlogs of a day by working a little extra. Believe me; your “next day” mood will be on high efficiency. Interestingly, everybody will start taking a leaf from your initiative quality and the overall workplace culture will improve. Other ingenious initiatives include: seeking new ways of doing things, being a helping hand to colleagues and other people around you, being the first to volunteer for new projects, and so on.
Coming back to Mr. Z, he is a late riser in the morning. He wakes up along with his best buddy called “Hurry”! All his things and stuffs are scattered around his room. He couldn’t find his socks, his watch, his wallet, and in maddening rush, he gets angry and starts yelling at anyone who would come across. By the time he leaves his home, his blood pressure is already on high. Yet again, his habits are not uncommon in us.
You can start to organize yourselves by maintain a daily planner, start the habit of “no-sleeping until my room is arranged” at night, being a helping hand to your spouse or parents, start being an early-riser, and so on.
One may consider the initiatives given above as easy-sounding but doing is the hard part. Taking first step is the hardest of all. Metaphorically, it’s like a space satellite exerting tremendous effort and energy to launch itself off the earth. As the first step of launching gets complete, it glides on smoothly around the earth. Literally speaking, no one’s going to tell you how to take the first step. Victor Hugo puts it rightly: Initiative is doing the right thing without being told!
The author can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org