You might love or hate Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, the head coach with the most Super Bowl wins in the history of the NFL, but he has a lot to teach you about how to be proactive.
Every week, Belichick and his assistant coaches study their opponent in the next game and then redesign their offense and defense to attack the strengths and take advantage of the weaknesses. Sure, other professional coaches develop strategies for handling different kinds of opponents, but not like Belichick.
He and his team figure out who the best players are and then design a game plan to bring them down. They identify the other team’s best players and most successful plays and then adjust their strategy to nullify them. They make sure to attack the other team’s strengths. Belichick isn’t narrow minded enough to try and run one system against everyone. He stays flexible. He knows what worked last week won’t necessarily work this week. His philosophy never changes but his techniques constantly change to meet the current situation. And that’s what gives him his edge.
Winning in life takes two kinds of adjustments: reactive adjustments for overcoming obstacles that appear out of nowhere and proactive adjustments for taking control of your life and getting more of what you want faster and easier. I like to think of it as how you respond to what just happened to you and how you attack the new opportunities that are coming your way. If you’re struggling to achieve goals in your career or life, you might be spending too much energy on the first and not enough on the second.
Learning how to be proactive often means quitting things that aren’t working for you so that you can focus on things that will work for you. Belichick quits things every day based on research on his opponents, what plays aren’t working anymore, or what players aren’t effective in their current positions.
Winners understand the paradox between what you change and what you don’t. They know winning fundamentals never change but how you implement them is something that changes constantly. Here’s what that means: Winners quit—or proactively adjust—a lot more often than people who aren’t winning. They stay flexible and open to new ideas or opportunities or ways of getting things done. They make regular adjustments away from things that are no longer bringing them closer to the things they really want.
If you’re wondering how to be proactive about creating the life you want, start by quitting like a winner.
Winners Quit Things That Aren’t Exciting Anymore
Winners don’t settle for things they once wanted but aren’t exciting anymore. They upgrade their goals and their plans based on what is exciting for them now.
We only do things we really want to do. If you’ve lost your enthusiasm for whatever it is you’re working toward right now, stop kidding yourself. It’s not going to happen, because you don’t really want it. Losing your enthusiasm is a sign that it’s time to adjust . . . or to take a time out and wait for better timing.
The smart approach, while you are moving forward, is to keep your eyes open for opportunities to upgrade your goals or your plan. Use everything you’ve learned and achieved so far to compress time frames so you can get to your goal quicker or even go for something bigger and better.
Caution: Don’t confuse short-term discouragement with lack of long-term enthusiasm. Being discouraged for a few hours or a few days isn’t a good reason to quit something you really want.
Winners Quit Environments That Aren’t Helping Them
I travel on Interstate 95 in Florida fairly often, and there are always accidents. (It has been ranked the most dangerous highway in America.) So, I have applied what I know about how to be proactive. I’ve figured out every good alternate route between my house and the places I drive to most. As soon as I hear about an accident or see a major slowdown, I get right off the highway and onto the city streets.
Some environments—companies, neighborhoods, gyms, banks, and so on—are like highways. They help you get where you want to go, until suddenly they don’t anymore. When that happens, winners know it’s time to quit and shift to a new environment. Quitting your environment can be a tough decision, but it can make a huge difference in your life. And you really don’t have any choice if it’s not working for you any longer.
Caution: Some environments can be challenging. But that might make them the best environments for improvement and growth. Just because an environment is demanding doesn’t make it the wrong environment.
Winners Quit Things That Aren’t Working
A winner is going to bust her rear, work day and night, as long as it’s worth it, as long as she’s making progress. She will put a ton of energy into it, as long as she expects a result. As soon as she becomes convinced that the result she was working toward is not going to happen, she “quits” and immediately moves on to something better.
Winners are not delusional. They operate with a mindset that expects good things to happen, but they accept reality. They don’t keep beating their heads against the wall. They quit things that eat up time and energy and money without producing results.
Stay proactive and expect results. Don’t settle for excuses from yourself or anyone else. But if your progress is slow or nonexistent, it’s time to adjust. Increase and refine your activity. Look for ways to get things done more efficiently so you can reach your goals faster. As a last resort, remember you can always adjust your goals and timetables if necessary. The important thing is to keep moving forward.
Caution: Believing you’re not good enough is not the same thing as understanding that what you’re doing isn’t working or that what you’re trying to do is not within the realm of possibility anymore. Make sure you give anything you try enough time and energy to work before you decide it won’t.