There are many reasons why one is not successful in life, and by successful, I mean being able to live life the way you want to live it. One of the reasons is whether you take actions to achieve your goals. Better still is whether you even take actions to set goals for yourself.

Here, I am not going to share about goals setting. That would likely be another article by itself. What I want to share is on the different levels of initiative I read about from the book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey. The reason I have chosen this subject is because, I feel that this is lacking among most people including myself at times, and it is one of the reasons why people do not take actions to achieve the things they want in life. I hope that by sharing about this subject, you can start to become more aware and benefit from it, to start living your life in a better way.

I will start from the lowest level of initiative out of the 7 levels of initiative and explain as I go along.


1. Wait until told
Basically, you just wait. You do not want to do be doing someone else’s job. When you act in areas outside of your circle of influence, people are likely not to be confidant in your recommendation, and they are likely to view what you are doing as entirely inappropriate. Fear of being look down upon by others is one of the reasons why you are likely to just do what you are told and nothing else. In a way, you lose out on many opportunities to excel in life.


2. Ask
It is reasonable to ask a question about something within your job scope but which lies outside your circle of influence. You are not able to do much as it is outside your circle of influence however as it affects your job, you would at least ask. If your question is well thought out and interesting, it could impress others and help increase your circle of influence in the process.


3. Make a Recommendation
Most of the time, the recommendation you make is not even part of your job. When you make a recommendation, you are likely to increase your circle of influence over time, provided it is logical and helpful. This often requires you to be more aware of what is happening around you so you can make appropriate recommendations when needed.


4. I intend to.
When you practice this level of initiative, you have done much more analytical and preparation work compared to the level of ‘making a recommendation’. You are totally ready to implement the necessary action once it is approved. ‘I intend to’ goes beyond ‘making a recommendation’ for you take ownership of the problem and the proposed solution.

5. Do it and report immediately
You report immediately because other people need to know what is being done. This allows others to know what is happening and how it is being carried out so they can take corrective measures if there is anything wrong. Likewise, others can also know how they will be affected and make necessary adjustment on their side. You do not report for the sake of making people aware that you are contributing and hoping to gain recognition for it.


6. Do it and report periodically
This level of initiative pertains to actions that could be part of self-evaluation or formal documentation and reporting, so that such information can be communicated and used by others. Feedbacks from recommendations and other changes can then be use to help others improve on their work flow and processes. When you carry out actions subject to your own will and report periodically, you find yourself taking responsibility for your life.


7. Just Do It
There is great power when you take responsibility for your action. When you are truly responsible for whatever you do, you make things happen rather than wait for the right circumstances. Here is a rather nice story to illustrate this level of initiative that was shared in the book.

A Message to Garcia.
When the war broke out between Spain and the US at the turn of the century, the American president needed to get a message to a Cuban revolutionary named Garcia. He was hiding somewhere on the island of Cuba out of reach of mail or telegraph. Nobody knew how to reach him. But an officer suggests that if anybody could do it, it would be an officer by the name of Rowan.

When McKinley gave the letter to Rowan in Washington DC, the officer didn’t ask, “Where is he at? How do I get there? What do you want me to do when I’m there? How will I get back?” He just took the message and figured out how to get to Garcia. He took a train to New York. A ship to Jamaica. Broke the Spanish blockade to get to Cuba in a sailboat. Then wild carriage rides, marching and riding through the Cuban jungle. Nine days of traveling later, Rowan got the message to Garcia at nine in the morning. The same afternoon at five, he started his return journey to the US.


To conclude, whatever ideas or dreams that you have, you can achieve them if you decide to take initiative. Hope you have benefited somewhat from this article and feel free to share and comment about your thoughts and experience. To understand more about this, I recommend that you read The 8th Habit by Stephen R. Covey.


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