In Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains the two different kinds of people: proactive and reactive people.
Reactive people are those whose environment(physical/social), feelings(emotions), conditions, and circumstances empower their actions.
Proactive people are value-based, and they are aware that their behavior is a product of their own choice. Even though outside conditions can still influence them, they make value-based choices. In essence they accept responsibility for their own life.
For example, many times reactive people render love a feeling, and thus their actions are made in response to that feeling. Proactive people make love a verb, rendering it something you do; it becomes a value that is shown through loving actions.
Mahatma Gandhi is probably one of the most well-known proactive people. Through his nonviolent philosophy he has inspired millions of people worldwide. Gandhi said, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do,” meaning you have to change before you can see anything else begin to change.
To become a proactive person you first have to change from the inside out. Effect positive change by simply being more; I can be bettering my attitude, I can be kinder, wiser…etc.
While I am a product of my environment, I also have an independent will. Even though I am constantly bombarded with people and things that may influence me, ultimately I have the power to CHOOSE. The most valuable endowment we have that separates us from other animals is the fact that we have self-awareness. We can make our own choices.
We can choose to be happy in our current state, while focusing our efforts on what we can change.