48 Ways to Take More Initiative at Work and in Life

 Iraq sandstorm


Many people are passive dreamers. They want things – a better job, a relationship, spiritual enlightenment, a new car – but they wait for these things to come to them. They believe that if they just stay still in one place for long enough, work hard or just complain a lot, some day they will get it. They watch, and face the green monster of envy as people around them get all these things.

What these “waiters” choose not to notice is that people who get the things they want are not sitting on their behinds, waiting. These people are “doers”. They are out in the world, going after what they want, creating opportunities, persisting in the face of challenges, and making things happen.

It starts with accepting responsibility – absolute responsibility – for your life. You alone are responsible for how your life turns out, because while there is nothing you can do about external circumstances, you can choose how you respond to them. You can choose to get up when the life pushes you on your knees. You can choose to keep moving forward, to keep fighting, to never lose hope.


The key is taking responsibility and initiative,
deciding what your life is about and prioritising your life
around the most important things.

– Stephen Covey


Once you accept that responsibility, you are free.

Free to take action. Free to try things that will take you towards your ideal life. Free to not just open doors, but create your own doors.


Here are 48 ways you can take initiative in your life and work:

1. Make a habit of asking “what if” instead of accepting the status-quo

2. Schedule creative brainstorm sessions by yourself or in groups

3. Challenge yourself to try new things every day for a week

4. Ask a lot of questions

5. If you are spending a lot of time doing boring tasks, ask yourself if it really needs to be done. If it does, find ways to make it more efficient. Consider outsourcing some of those tasks.

6. Do different self-awareness exercises every day for a month. Take personality tests. Journal. Ask your friends and family about your strengths and weaknesses.

7. Make a list of all the things you’ve been meaning to do for a while – whether it’s something as small as cleaning the house, or something as big as writing a book – and start doing at least one thing from that list straight away.

8. Find a mentor.

9. Form a mastermind group.

10. Join a class to learn something new, even if it has nothing to do with your career.

11. Make a list of your biggest mistakes. Journal about the lessons you learned from those mistakes.

12. Speak up. Next time someone asks you for an opinin, or if you are in a meeting, don’t hold back. Present your ideas, or say exactly what you think. You have to be comfortable with yourself and your beliefs, to get used to taking an initiative.

13. If you see something that needs to be done, go do it – even if it’s not a part of your responsibility.

14. Admit your mistakes.

15. Set goals.

16. Participate. Make your presence known by taking part in any discussion or activity with enthusiasm.

17. Take advantage of new opportunities.

18. Discover your values. Do you know what you stand for? Your core values are an essential part of the life you want to create, so spend some time thinking about them.

19. Make a list of things around you that are not quite good enough, the ones that you know could be better. Pick one, and brainstorm how you’ll make it better. Then, immediately implement the idea.

20. Make decisions. When something needs to be decided, don’t just worry or think about it and prolong the situation. Do your homework, assess the situation, and then make an informed decision.

21. Follow the 80/20 rule. Focus your efforts on the things that will deliver high impact results.


If you put off everything till you’re sure of it, you’ll get nothing done.

– Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

22. Make a conscious effort to give your absolute best to every task at hand.

23. Be persistent. If you want something, and you know you are right to want it, then keep at it. Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back.


There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.

– Douglas MacArthur

24. Influence is power. Experiment with different ways to improve your influencing skills.

25. Send a hand-written “Thank You” card to someone who has helped you.

26. Approach one person who’s good at something you want to improve in, and ask them for help. You could either ask them to be your mentor, or make a mutually beneficial offer where you provide them with something they need in return.

27. Praise someone publically for something they did well. If your spouse did something nice for you, thank them or praise their effort in front of others. If your employee took an initiative, went out of their way to do something, or did a really great job, make a pointing of commenting on it in front of other colleagues.

28. Praise someone who’s in a higher position than you. If your parents did something well, or if your boss did something very helpful, or gave you good guidance, tell them that, and thank them.

29. Lead by example. If you are trying to get someone else to do something, do it yourself first. Inspire action in others. Don’t force it.

30.Help someone with zero expectation for any reward, or even a thank-you. Help them because it’s the right thing to do.


The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

– Alan Kay

31. Find an informal leadership position. Organise events in your local community; offer your help with school projects; start a group that brings like-minded people together. You don’t need to wait for someone else to tell you that you are a leader. Leaders lead – whether they get paid for it or not.

32. Find one way that you can improve your communication skills, and practice it every dy for a fortnight.

33. Find out how other people prefer to communicate. Wherever possible, use the medium of their choice.

34. Bring solutions, not problems. This is a cliché for a reason. No one likes naysayers and whiners. If you see an issue, by all means bring it up. But have something constructive to say as well.

35. Anticipate your manager’s, partner’s, children’s, friends’ needs. Do something for them that they need, without their having to ask you.

36. Regularly ask people in your life for their feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.

37. Be honest. Be yourself. Sucess without authenticity is meaningless.

38. Be your own best supporter. Learn to present your ideas and plans in positive and effective manner to others.

39. Volunteer for difficult or weird assignments.

40. Smile at people. Greet them. Friendliness is the most effective way to create connection.

41. Minimize negative comments that come out of your mouth.

42. Give what you want to receive. This is similar to “do to others what you want done to you.” If you want respect, give respect to others. If you want opportunities, give the opportunities in your power to people who would benefit from it.

43. Find a work environment that supports your authenticity. Don’t try to fit in a place that is totally wrong for you.


Follow your bliss, and what looks like walls will turn into doors.

– Joseph Campbell

44. Create a plan for where you want to be in five years time.

45. Actively break-off association with all negative influences in your life. Surround yourself by people who support, motivate or inspire you.

46. Regularly review your progress on your goals, and adjust your course as required.

47. Pick one skill that is important/necessary for you but you aren’t very good at, and focus on improving it to a high level within 4-6 months.

48. Simplify your life. 



Pick at least one of these 48 items, and start work on it today.


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Are You Following the Right Goals?


#12 - Goals


It’s mid-February, and 2013 is well under way. If you haven’t already done a review of your goals, then now is the time.

Regular reviews are an essential part of an effective goal-setting and goal-achieving process. Setting the right goals is important, but it’s of no us if you don’t implement them. Implementing goals requires staying on course by having regular reviews, to ensure that you continue to adapt to changing circumstances and make the best use of resources available to you.

One of the things the students learned in the EPIC 2013 course this January was to have period reviews of goals. It’s important because it’s incredibly easy to forget about goals or put them on the backburner when you are dealing with day-to-day demands or urgent things – but these are often things that don’t take you anywhere near your ultimate goals. It’s also important because your goals may change, or your circumstances may change.

For example, you may have set a goal in January to travel once every month, only to lose your job in February or get health issues which stop you from travelling. That means, you need to adjust or change your goals. Without a regular review, you may not do that for months, and therefore effectively waste that time instead of putting it to good use on a more achievable goal.

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What is your WHY behind this goal?

What motivates you to go after this goal? Why this, as opposed to something else? Why does this goal matter?

What is the end vision for this goal?

What would you have achieved if you successfully completed this goal? For example, the end vision for a weight loss goal may be fitter and more attractive body. The end vision for a career goal maybe a promotion and a pay rise. The end vision for a family goal maybe spending more quality time with your family.

Do you care about this goal? Really?

Do you really care for what you are striving for, or are you doing it because you think you “should” due to social pressures, other people’s expectations, or simply because you once wanted it and are too stubborn to give up? There is a difference between quitting because it’s the right thing to do, and quitting because you are too lazy/afraid to follow things through. Make sure you know that former is an informed choice, while the latter is for losers.

Is it achievable with the resources at your disposable?

Is it a realistic goal? If you have set a goal to go to Mars, but are not an astraunaut or haven’t got a lot of money to pay for a sponsered trip, your goal is not hardly realistic. It would be a tough thing even if you were a super rich astranaut, but at least then you could devote your money and life to the project. Do you have the resources you need to achieve this – time, money, fitness, skills? If you don’t have the resources, are you in a position to acquire them?

You don’t have to have everything from the beginning. If your goal is to work in Spain for a year, but you don’t speak Spanish, you can learn to speak it, and then fulfill your goal.

Think about resources you have. Then think about resources you need, and what you will need to acquire them. Once you are clear about that, you can decide whether or not your goal is realistic.


Set regular time aside to review your goals. Go through each of these four steps to ensure that you are always working on the goals that are right for you at any given time. Keep a goal journal.


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What is the Difference between A Diary, A Journal & A Kaizen Journal



When I mention “journaling” to some of the people in my non-online life, they often don’t know what it is. There seems to be a lot less awareness of the concept of journaling in the UK than in the US. When I attempt to explain, one of the most frequent responses is, “Oh, so it’s a diary!”

Um…not really.

This post is the answer to that question, to define the difference between a diary and a journal. But we will go further than that. I will also explain how a kaizen journal differs from a journal.

A Diary is a log of facts. It is driven by EXTERNAL events and factors.

For example:

I woke up at 7, had cornflakes for breakfast, went to work. Meeting about the new project. Watercooler gossip about such and such, who’s such a horrible person. Forgot to bring lunch.

A more developed / organised version of this could be:

07:05 – woke up
07:45 – cornflakes and a coffee for breakfast
08:00 – drove to work
10:00 – meeting about the new project. It went well, and I think I really showed off my presentation skills. Need to work on the eye contact.
11:00 – watercooler chat about x. She’s such a horrible person, treating her poor children like that.
12:00 – Just realised that I forgot to bring lunch.

Generally, this is all a diary is. Amalgamation of facts and events, with maybe a few comments thrown in.

Traditionally, a journal is driven from INTERNAL factors.

Remember the teenage drama you used to pour out on the pages? That’s journaling. In a journal, you focus more on your feelings, on your thoughts. You write about what’s going on inside you, rather than your day-to-day agenda.

An example of this could be:

Feeling blue this morning. It’s weird that it’s a happy thing when the sky is blue, but we say “feeling blue” when describing feeling down. On some days, you wake up and realise everything that’s going wrong, and feel like you’ve no control over fixing any of it. Just got to wait. I’m tired of waiting. I just want to do something. Change something. But don’t know where to start. If only you could start from scratch – really from scratch, with no history, no mistakes. How would it be if you could design your life? Would it be good though – because you could only design yours, you can’t control how people in your life design theirs. So even if you could, it would still be the same. You would be stranded in a web of relationships, dependent on other people to define your happiness.

In a journal, you are not required to be logical. The truth in your journal is the truth from your perspective. This is where you can be absolutely honest about your feelings, without need for apologies.

A kaizen journal takes it even further.

 A kaizen journal is a combination of EXTERNAL and INTERNAL factors.

Here, you would record external events as they feel relevant but without the rigidity of keeping a diary. You wouldn’t write everything that you do during the day, but only what seems important at the time, or what you feel like recording. There is no one way to do this, as journaling at its core is unique to each individual.

An example could be:

I woke up at 7, feeling blue.  It’s weird that it’s a happy thing when the sky is blue, but we say “feeling blue” when describing feeling down. On some days, you wake up and realise everything that’s going wrong, and feel like you’ve no control over fixing any of it. Just got to wait. I’m tired of waiting. I just want to do something. Change something. But don’t know where to start. If only you could start from scratch – really from scratch, with no history, no mistakes. How would it be if you could design your life? Would it be good though – because you could only design yours, you can’t control how people in your life design theirs. So even if you could, it would still be the same. You would be stranded in a web of relationships, dependent on other people to define your happiness.

How do I define my happiness?

Great meeting about the new project. All that practice I put in brushing up presentation skills came in handy. Just need to make sure this project is a success, and it could be the key to promotion.

What are the things I need to make sure must happen to make it a successful project?

A kaizen journal may include your hopes and dreams, internal dilemmas, failures and successes, thoughts about relationships and work, shopping lists, goals, favourite things, what you did – just about anything. A kaizen journal is about your entire life.

A kaizen journal can help you with a particular area of your life, or all areas of your life. You can keep a career journal, writing journal, reading journal, food journal, wine journal, relationship journal, motherhood journal, spiritual journal, dream journal, goal journal, self-improvement journal, fitness journal, learning journal or any other type of journal you can think of. Alternatively, you could combine aspects of these specific journals into one journal that you use every day.

A kaizen journal is an useful tool for recording, remembering, learning, and developing. But it is an invaluable tool for striving for your potential.



Decide whether you are currently keeping a diary, a journal or a kaizen journal? How can you ensure that you are keeping a kaizen journal, if you are not already doing so? If you are doing so, what can you do to make it better?


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5 Reasons Why You Must Read



I love books. I don’t remember ever disliking reading, but I fell in love with it when I was eight. I’d an accident. I fractured my left leg, and after that I’d typhoid. Or maybe typhoid was before the accident – not sure which came first, but all in all, I’d about three months of bed rest within a short space of time.

People came to visit me, and brought me presents. Quite often books. We also had a librarian neighbour and she brought books for me to read.

While I come from a family that’s big on education, no one had a habit of reading for pleasure. I discovered that joy during these three months of illness. I’m eternally grateful for that because without this love of books, my life and who I became would’ve been very different.

Since then, I became a voracious reader which only improved with age. Following my example, my sister and cousins began to read too. Some parents might say I “corrupted” them by reading at the dining table. But of that, I’m unashamedly proud. If your children are going to have bad habits, reading at a dining table is certainly one of the better ones to have.

Reading has been the single most important factor in my continuous growth, in self-education and personal development before I even thought about those terms. It can do the same for you, and much much more.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#c90000″]5 Reasons Why You Must Read[/typography]

For Personal Growth

Reading is a pretty cheap method of personal development. Most books cost anywhere between £3 to £20. You can also get them for free by visiting your local library. Books are the kindling for fuelling the fire of knowledge seekers.

It’s the quickest and most efficient way of ensuring you continue your self-education even after you’ve finished school. Reading teaches you new concepts, and shows you old ideas in a new light. Reading leads you to make connections between different pieces of information. Reading increases the store of your knowledge.

For Improving Language/Communication Skills

This is a must for a writers, but having well developed language and communication skills is useful for just about anyone. You don’t have to go around mouthing off big words to make yourself sound intelligent (it doesn’t work), but you should work on increasing your repertoire of words. Better language skill enables you to communicate your ideas more effectively. Reading helps you acquire that not just by enriching your vocabulary, but by showing you how good writers write.

For Improving Focus

Very useful in this age of distraction. When you are reading, you are concentrating on the material at hand, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. If the material is engaging enough, you learn to tune out all the other noises around you. Reading helps you acquire and improve, ability to focus.

For Exercising and Expanding Your Brain

When you exercise your body, your current muscles break and then form again, bigger and stronger. Reading does the same to your brain. Reading is a great way to explore the universe without going anywhere.

As I read, “The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi” by R. K. Prabhu, I’m led to wonder about my own views on violence and pride.

As I read, “The Game of Thrones” by G. R. R. Martin, I’m immersed in story and the characters, but I’m also thinking about what part politics plays in our daily life.

As I read, “Discover Your Genius” by Michael Gelb, I’m inspired by ten outstanding people who’ve been profiled as geniuses, and thinking about how I can further use my abilities to make the best of what I already have.

This is where a reading journal – or incorporating aspects of it into your regular journal – becomes an invaluable tool. It helps you assemble and then disassemble your thoughts, and makes you see how what you are reading affects you.

For Pleasure/Comfort/Inspiration

I’m always in search of a story or ideas that will keep me up all night, characters who would remain with me forever, inspiration that will lead me to action.

I don’t believe in snobbery of reading only the classics, or only non-fiction. Any well-written book is good literature. I read children’s book with the same attitude as I read Ulysses or Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s letters is no more or less important than reading Lord of the Rings.

Good literature is what feeds your brain the good food – a balanced diet that could be made up of any number of ingredients such as: one that enriches your imagination, one that makes you forget about your troubles for a while, one that transports you to a world you’ve never been, one that strongly resonates with you and leaves you laughing or crying, on that inspires you and makes you take action, one that helps you discover more about yourself.

Don’t take anyone else’s definition of what good literature is. While there is abundant trash in the market (because it’s purchased by the masses who want immediate gratification of easy reading or sensational, lurid stories and not much substance), not all light or pleasure reading is trash.

In conclusion, these are just some of the benefits of reading. There will be countless little benefits that come as part of being a voracious reader, but most of all, the experience that each individual gets from books is as unique as the person reading it.



If you are not a regular reader, start a book today.

If you are a regular reader, try something new, and record your experiences. Think about what you get out of reading, and what books teach you.


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How To Decide Where To Volunteer Abroad



In October 2012, my husband and I made a decision that we want to go volunteer abroad in a few months’ time. The decision came suddenly, but the root was there before, in both our minds though we hadn’t really spoken about it. We love travelling, and we also have a deep desire to help, to contribute in our own way.

Once we’d decided to volunteer in February, the big wide world was suddenly open to us. How do you decide when there are similar programmes in various countries and you don’t know where to go, or what’s best?

Narrow Down the List By Following Your Preferences

You already have preferences, even if you don’t know it. Think about your preferences, places you’ve already considered going or taken an interest in,
Once we made the decision to go, there was a very quick narrowing down process. We ruled out Africa immediately. Yes, they need help too, but lots of aid goes to Africa already, and we weren’t comfortable about the safety aspect. South Africa was ruled out because of safety issue too. My husband was keen to go to South America, and I was happy with it, as it would mean I get to practice Spanish.

This initial narrowing down process doesn’t have to be complicated at all. You don’t have to justify your preferences, so just follow your instinct.

Look at your absolute requirements

What it is that you can’t manage without for whatever reason? Volunteering isn’t supposed to be a luxury holiday, but still, the kind of facilities you can expect vary widely. For me, having an internet connection was absolute necessity, as I would still need to continue Kaizen Journaling work.

The need for internet again narrowed down the list of kind of places we can go to considerably. It meant that at the very least we would need to go to a small town, rather than out-in-the-sticks villages or wilderness.

Look at your skill set

How can you contribute? Start with the obvious. Look at your resume, the jobs you have had in the past. In which areas do you have most experience? But don’t just stop there. What are your main hobbies? Have you participated in social or sports clubs? Are there particular strengths that people always compliment you on? Even if you are a housewife, or a student who haven’t had much experience, you still have skills. Are you super organised? Do you have great eye for detail, or a vision of what could be that others simply can’t see?

Look at your interest / motivation (even more important than skill set)

This is the top most factor. If you have the right motivation, or absolute interest in something, you can overcome almost any barriers. If you don’t have the skill, you can learn it. If you don’t have creature comforts, you can manage. If you don’t speak the language, you can pick it up. If you are doing the job that you have the right motivation for, you can do great things. So look for your motivation. What is driving you?

Promoting literacy, education, and creative pursuits has been my lifelong mission. That is my cause. I have a lot more motivation to help out people without seeking any reward when it’s in the service of literacy or encouraging love of reading than almost anything else. Does that mean, other kinds of helps are not important? Of course not. Someone needs to build wells for fresh water supply, someone needs to provide medical assistant, someone needs to look after the needs of the elderly. There are millions of worthy causes, but since you can only do limited amount of good in the time and resources you have, do the things that you have strong motivation for. My passion for books shine through when I talk about that. I certainly can’t say the same about building wells. 

Consider your finances and available resources

Okay, so you want to do this thing. You want to volunteer for whatever period. You really want to contribute. But can you? If you go in debt to go volunteering, that’s just dumb. Not only that but it’s also dishonest. You are supposed to improve the lives of people you try to help, and wherever possible you are supposed to be an example. If you are piling up debt to do it, you are not teaching them the kind of behaviour they can emulate.

If you really want to go to New Zealand, but you can only afford to go to Canada, either your finances or your preferences need to change. If you did want to do something really expensive, you could always plan for it, save money and then do it. But either way, you need to consider what money and resources – people and things are available to you.

When I first started looking for places to volunteer, the first thing I found was that all of the opportunities were through placement agencies, and cost a lot of money, almost as much as going on a luxury holiday. While I am prepared to bear the costs for myself, I’m not prepared to pay middle-men for the privilege of working for no money. So I started deeper research and focused on finding the places to volunteer directly. It does mean you need to do more work, because there is no one vetting things out for you, and it also means you don’t have any staff organising quick language lessons, or orientation period. However, it makes it more authentic experience rather than an organised feel-good holiday.

Find the place that’s right for you

After looking at above five things, you now have a much narrower search to begin. You have a general idea of what places you prefer, or not prefer. You know what your absolute requirements are, and what you can afford. You also know what your motivation is, and what your cause is if you have any. Keeping all of that in mind, start your research. 

Internet is full of information, and if you do the research right, it’s really not very difficult to find. I put in solid research, working at it few hours every day, and sent out lots of enquiries to places that interested me. But within about two weeks or so, we had a short list, and also our first choice of place, where we applied and were accepted. 

Volunteering abroad is an exciting opportunity. It’s an humanitarian adventure. It’s a win-win opportunity where you benefit by the experience, and the place and the people you work with benefit by your contribution. This little preparation work in advance will ensure – as much as any guarantee is possible – that you find the right match. 



Exercise for your journal: If you could go volunteer abroad, where would you like to go, and what would you like to do? What stops you from doing it?


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