“The roots of true achievement lie in the will to become the best that you can become.” – Harold Taylor
The ability to get things started or done without needing to be told what to do. That is how Webster’s New World Dictionary defines Initiative. People that have initiative are those special people that get things done. They make things happen. People with initiative are the ones that others look up to. The ones people say they want to be like. Quite simply, people with initiative are winners. They are winners because they constantly take on new challenges and they find what has to be done and they set about doing it. They don’t make excuses and find failure in every opportunity. It is just the opposite, they find opportunity in failure. When others make excuses or give up, people with initiative step forward. Initiative is vital to success.
Some really outstanding examples of initiative include Thomas Edison. He became one of, if not the greatest, example of personal initiative and its benefits. He suffered through 10,000 failures while trying to invent the incandescent light bulb. People with less determination and personal initiative encouraged him to quit thousands of times. However, his personal initiative and perseverance have benefited mankind in ways that I cannot begin to expound upon.
Abraham Lincoln was defeated numerous times in elections for small town political positions. He was defeated for Vice President of the United States so soundly that he received less than 100 votes. On his own personal initiative he continued to fight and believed in his ideas and abilities. He went on to become one of the most influential men in all of history. That is what initiative can do for a person or an organization.
I have been fortunate to meet many people that possess the quality of personal initiative. In studying people with this quality, I find that they often have other qualities that support their initiative. These qualities seem to work in harmony with their personal initiative. I think when you study anybody that has risen to the top in their field of endeavor, you will find they absolutely have personal initiative and the following qualities to back up that initiative:
Sense of humor
“No quit” attitude
Care for others
People with initiative seem to have a very strong sense of purpose. They know what they want. In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Victor Frankl stated that if you have a strong enough ‘why’, you can overcome any ‘how’. In other words, if someone has a strong enough purpose they can overcome any obstacle. You often see people give up at the first sign of opposition. Even worse, many people never even get started. They give up without any attempt at all. Their fear of failure is so strong that they move beyond fearing it. They no longer fear failure; they expect it. They won’t even begin to attempt things. They cannot make changes or overcome obstacles because they are afraid to even try. They are people that lack purpose and they lack initiative. People with a strong sense of purpose are tenacious. They do not let anyone tell them they can’t do something. A sense of purpose makes their dreams and desires so strong that they can’t quit, they don’t know how. Stop and think about people you know on both sides of the coin. Those with a strong sense of purpose and those with a defeated air about them. How are they different? What makes the difference?
The biggest difference is that people with a sense of Purpose tend to have an infectious sense of humor. They have a passion for living and a passion for what they want to accomplish. Whenever I am around people with a sense of purpose I always seem to feel a sense of energy. It is fun to be around them. They are exciting people that like to have fun. They get all they can out of life and their involvements. They tend to make you laugh and find enjoyment.
Those that lack purpose are often complaining about their situation and how everything is unfair. They seem to want to blame other people or circumstances for their problems. They seldom accept responsibility for their situation and are always looking for the big break or the quick fix to their problems. They lack the passion that purpose gives life to.
People with a sense of purpose do not blame others; they take action. They almost seem to embrace success. They accept it as a challenge or a lesson to do things even better than before. Those with a strong personal initiative and sense of purpose do not know how to quit. Setbacks are not viewed as losses or points to quit. They are viewed as new starting places, somewhere to begin again more intelligently or more determined. They tend to see things in a different light. If you lack purpose then where are you going? Purpose gives you a direction to move in, something to shoot for. Lacking that direction gives you nowhere to start and nothing to shoot for. When you have nothing to shoot for then quitting is easy. When you have something that totally consumes your thoughts, desires and passions, then quitting is impossible; it doesn’t even enter the mind. Winston Churchill embodied this spirit. For him failure was not an option. He had a very definite purpose and he would not allow anything to deter that. Setbacks happen. Setbacks are not failure. The only failure to a person fueled by personal initiative and purpose is quitting.
People with initiative seem to care. They not only care about their purpose, but their purpose is usually something to benefit others. They have a big idea. Think of people that have affected history. Those that had a burning purpose: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Jesus. The list can go on and on. Did they have a burning purpose? Absolutely. What made their purpose, their initiatives so important? Care. They cared for others. Their purpose had a bigger meaning than just personal gains. They wanted to help others. A caring attitude gave their initiative and purpose a much larger meaning.
When I study leaders and successful people I find that they all have similar qualities. To be sure, none could ever be in a position of leadership or be successful without having the ability to take personal initiative. I think initiative is best summed up by the following quote: “We are told never to cross a bridge until we come to it, but this world is owned by men who have ‘crossed bridges’ in their imagination far ahead of the crowd.” – Anonymous
Those who take the initiative seem to have a special quality about them. I think it is best summed up by the term EXCELLENCE. Those with personal initiative expect excellence and they most often get it. In fact, they do not have to pursue excellence; it starts to pursue them. Initiative is to excellence what the heart is to the body. It is vital. I like the following statement. I cannot call it a quote or a story, I like to call it a creed. I don’t know who wrote it or where I got it, but I think it sums up the outcome of people with a strong sense of personal initiative.
Excellence is never an accident. It is achieved in an organization or institution only as a result of an unrelenting and vigorous insistence on the highest standards of performance. It requires an unswerving expectancy of quality from the staff and volunteers.
Excellence is contagious. It infects and affects everyone in the organization. It charts the direction of the program. It establishes the criteria for planning. It provides the zest and vitality to the organization. Once achieved, excellence has a talent for permeating every aspect of the life of the organization.
Excellence demands commitment and a tenacious dedication from the leadership of the organization. Once it is accepted and expected, it must be nourished and continually reviewed and renewed. It is a never-ending process of learning and growing. It requires a spirit of motivation and boundless energy. It is always the result of a creatively conceived and precisely planned effort.
Excellence inspires; it electrifies. It potentializes every phase of the organization’s life. It unleashes an impact which influences every program, every activity, every committee and every staff person. It demands adaptability, imagination and vigor. But most of all, it requires from the leadership a constant state of self-discovery and discipline.
Excellence is an organization’s lifeline. It is the most compelling answer to apathy and inertia. It energizes a stimulating and pulsating force. Once it becomes the expected standard of performance, it develops a fiercely driving and motivating philosophy of operation.
Excellence is a state of mind put into action. It is a roadmap of success. When a climate of excellence exists, all things become easier.
Excellence in an organization is important…because it is everything.