This p-word could be lacking in your love life
There’s one word starting with the letter P that is at the core of effective dating. If you’re feeling frustrated and unmotivated, chances are this p-word is lacking.
Nope, I don’t mean patience – although this helps! And nope, I don’t mean positivity or perspective either – although these are pretty fab too!
The p-word I’m talkin’ about is proactivity.
Okay first I think I need to clear something up.
When you hear the word “proactivity” used in dating, it’s often taken to mean something about making the first move or showing initiative.
But hold-up a minute because it’s a lot bigger than that.
In his best-selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey identifies proactivity as the first habit of highly effective individuals.
Covey defines proactivity as being responsible for, and therefore in charge of our own lives.
He sums it up pretty perfectly when he says:
“Look at the word responsibility – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognise that responsibility.” – Stephen Covey
P-daters and R-daters
Before we talk about what it looks like to be a truly proactive “P-dater”, let’s look at the total opposite.
The opposite of proactivity is reactivity.
Reactive daters or “R-daters” are constantly reacting to things that seem to be happening TO them.
R-daters are more likely to be blaming the apps for serving up duds and blame bad dates (or lack of dates) on something or someone else.
On the flip side, there’s the proactive dater.
The proactive dater takes charge of what they can. P-daters recognise their “response-abillity” and become really intentional about how they go about their dating life.
Sure, sh*t happens. Things don’t always go their way. They experience setbacks and disappointments just like anyone else, but it’s where they focus their energy that really makes the difference in the long run.
Where’s your energy focused?
The fundamental difference between R-daters and P-daters is where their energy is focused.
Proactive daters are careful to focus their energy where they DO have influence and control. Reactive daters focus their time and energy on things they can’t control, and feel increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated.
Before you can become a P-dater, you need to be able to recognise the difference between the things you can control and those you can’t control.
Covey’s “circle of concern” and “circle of influence” help to explain how this works.
Our circle of concern includes all the things that matter to us in some way. This might include finding love, our health and wellbeing, climate change, the economy etc.
But only SOME aspects of these things are things we can actually do something about.
Our circle of influence sits INSIDE our circle of concern. The circle of influence includes all the things we have some control and influence over.
Let’s look at this through a dating lens.
“Finding love” might sit in your circle of concern because it’s something that matters to you. There’s stuff that relates to this that you have NO control over. But there’s also a lot of stuff you CAN influence. For example, you can’t control exactly when you’ll fall in love, but you can control whether or not or not you prioritise dating. You can’t control whether someone swipes left or right on your dating profile but you can control how much effort you put into creating that profile.
Can you see the difference?
Expanding your circle of dating influence
As you gradually identify more things you CAN control, and focus your energy there – and only there – you become more proactive.
As your focus shifts, your circle of dating influence expands and you feel truly self-empowered.
The clients I see dramatically expand their circle of dating influence shift their focus over time, growing a powerful sense of being in charge. The results flow from here.
- They focus on applying their standards instead of dwelling on rejection.
- They recognise their “response-ability” to choose their attitude and response to different situations rather than feeling like a victim.
- They build up a powerful self-awareness and learn from experiences rather than dwelling on setbacks.
- They make time for dating and set meaningful goals and boundaries instead of waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to jump out of Netflix.
- And they quit focusing on the weaknesses of others and get busy sharpening their own skills and strengths.
Why is it so hard to be ‘proactive’ in dating?
Personally I think the answer’s got a lot to do with conditioning.
We grow up absorbing romantic love stories that do very little to shine a light on the true character and grit it takes sometimes to find love. Hollywood movies and Disney fairytales set up this idea that you just have to be in the right place at the right time.
One minute you’re walking down the street looking kinda cute, the next minute – BANG, love strikes.
So we expect dating to be EASY. Then, when things don’t work out that way, there’s shame and confusion. Dating gets overwhelming and exhausting and there’s no motivation to take meaningful action. Less meaningful action means substandard results. Substandard results aren’t exactly motivating and so the cycle continues.
The expectation that something will happen for us, not by us, can be the start of this cycle.
The good news is: learning to be proactive is a circuit breaker. This is what I really mean when I say “take charge of the love life you deserve”. Learn to take control where you can, let go where you can’t.
And it’s never “too late” to start.
As the saying goes, is it “one day” or “day one”? You get to decide.
Covey, S. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful lessons in personal change. London: Simon & Schuster.
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