“You need to be more proactive.”

Has anyone ever said this to you? Your partner? Your boss? Your doctor?

And when they said it, how did you feel? Motivated? Annoyed? Confused?

It seems to me that the word “proactive” is thrown around pretty often. Maybe a little too often. So while the need to be more proactive is common advice, what does it really mean?

I’ll be honest with you. Back when I had a regular job in a corporation, proactive was a popular buzzword, as it still is. And I wasn’t necessarily viewed as the most proactive guy. My lack of proactivity was usually discussed in terms of not planning ahead, having a tendency to take things as they came along, not having a strategy.

And I have to say, I sometimes rolled my eyes when I was told I wasn’t proactive enough (at least when I got back to my desk). I would ask myself: Am I really supposed to stress about everything that might possibly happen and have a Plan B and even a Plan C in place? And by the way, am I supposed to have a crystal ball so that I know what these possible outcomes are? After all, predicting the future was never my strong suit.

The way being proactive was often presented to me sounded like a really stressful way to live. If not impossible.

And as it turned out, the people telling me to be proactive didn’t necessarily know what the word meant, either.

So I can totally understand when my clients talk to me about how they want to be more proactive about their healthcare but aren’t necessarily sure what that word means, let alone how to actually accomplish it. They may have decided on their own that they want to take a proactive approach to their healthcare. Their doctor or nurse may have given them that advice. Or it may have come from a family member.

So let’s take a look at what it really means to be proactive.

When you Google proactive, you get this definition: “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” Reactive, on the other hand, is defined as: “acting in response to a situation rather than creating or controlling it.”

Is that a surprise to you? It was to me. What I take away from this definition is that being proactive isn’t about being ready to react to what might happen. Instead, being proactive means doing everything you can to take control in your life. Acting now! Does being proactive mean having all of the control? No. But it does mean recognizing where you do have control, and taking that control. And when you think about being proactive in your healthcare, this means being empowered.

What about you? Looking for ways to be more proactive in managing your self-care? Here are some ideas to consider:

Stay on top of your tests and appointments. If your condition requires that you go for periodic blood testing, make sure you stay on top of that. If you need to go for periodic meetings with your doctor, make sure you do that, too. This is the best way to know exactly what’s going on with your treatment. And this way, if there’s an issue of any kind, chances are greater that you can catch it before it progresses further. Now, that’s proactive.

Keep your information up to date. Stay abreast of the latest information about your condition. What the experts are saying. The latest research. Any new treatments on the horizon. Knowledge is power, as I always say to my clients.

Keep your own records. Lab results, symptoms, questions. You’ll be that much better prepared for your next appointment, as well as to identify any trends that your doctor needs to know about.

Take a look at your self-care routine. Think of your self-care routine as a work in progress. One of the best ways to take charge is to always be questioning whether you are doing everything you can to take good care of yourself. Be aware of areas for improvement. Ask yourself and your treatment team what you could do better. Sitting down with your doctor and reviewing your plan might help you to identify any gaps. So can doing your own research.

Prioritize. Life has a way of getting in the way of our good intentions. Family demands and work demands, for example. And when that happens, it’s all too easy to let your self-care routine slide. Well, letting that happen is definitely not being proactive. Keep your self-care front and center. After all, that’s what makes everything else possible.

Stay supported. Chronic conditions can take a toll on your emotions. And when that happens, you can feel like you’ve been tossed off your foundation. So have people in your life who can be there when you need a listening ear. And maybe even help you stay accountable. We are all in this together!

Have an escape hatch in place. Yes, I know being proactive is not about predicting the future. However, one way to take care of yourself is to have a plan for any health emergencies that you might be at risk for. This might include guidelines for knowing when you are at risk, procedures to take, numbers to call. You might ask your doctor to give you a hand putting this together. Doing this can help protect your health as well as give you some peace of mind.

Control what you can control. Starting with staying on top of your self-care. Be proactive! Power up!

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