Values

Ivanka Trump: You are the only person who can create a life you'll love

Ivanka Trump

Editor's note: The following column is excerpted from "Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success " by Ivanka Trump.

I believe that redefining success includes wanting to lead a good life today, not at some unnamed point in the future—to be both happy and thus successful.

Stephen Covey, the best-selling business author, often emphasizes the enormous value of being proactive. To a certain extent, we all know what “being proactive” means: it’s the opposite of reactive.

On one level, it means taking the initiative, creating opportunities that interest you, rather than sending out a résumé and waiting for the phone to ring. That is being proactive, but Covey takes it much further, espousing the value of proactivity in our lives at large and in every decision we make, from the slightest comment to the grandest gesture.

When it comes to creating the life you want to live, consciously or not, you choose the kind of work you do, the character of the people who surround you, the type of organization to which you will or won’t devote yourself, the sort of responses you have, positive or negative, effective or ineffective, to the challenges (big and small) life throws at you.

“Your life doesn’t just ‘happen,’ ” Covey argues. “Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear.

Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.” You choose.

When it comes to creating the life you want to live, consciously or not, you choose the kind of work you do, the character of the people who surround you, the type of organization to which you will or won’t devote yourself, the sort of responses you have, positive or negative, effective or ineffective, to the challenges (big and small) life throws at you.

You choose your words and your behaviors, even when you aren’t thinking about them—what you say, how you say it, how you act.

Optimistic, proactive people speak positively of themselves and their capabilities—I can, I plan to, I trust.

The opposite—negative people— are swayed by the external and are frequently victims of circumstance.

You can spot them pretty easily by the language they choose—I can’t, I won’t, I’m worried, the problem is. Proactive people are passionate and productive; they focus their energies on the things they can influence and improve: their families, their health, their work. These issues are within their scope of command, and they attend to them because they are important to their lives.

My husband, Jared, is by far one of the most positive, proactive, and solution-oriented people I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly pragmatic, always cool in the face of adversity; he finds it unproductive to focus on the problem (versus the solution) or to react emotionally. 

He’s my greatest teacher in this regard, the calm, soothing voice of reason that guides me to focus on what matters most, even in moments of crisis or chaos, when I naturally tend to be a bit more emotional.

When I have a lot of different stressors coming at me, he’ll say, “Just take one thing at a time. Slow down and focus on what you have the ability to control. Focus on solutions.”

Occasionally when I’m particularly stressed and can no longer see the forest for the trees, I recall a scene from the movie "Bridge of Spies."

The lawyer, James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), is talking to his client, who’s just been sentenced to life in prison. Donovan, slightly exasperated by his client’s calm in the wake of devastating news, says, “Do you never worry?”

The accused man reflects, then pragmatically asks, “Would it help?” Reactive people tend to dwell on counterproductive emotions, like worry and fear, and focus their energies on things they can’t control— bad weather, a canceled flight, a sick babysitter. Reactive people fret to no avail, expending precious time and resources ineffectively.

You’ll never be able to proactively devote your time to what really matters to you if you can’t stop negatively overreacting to your daily obligations and demands.

Ivanka Trump is First Daughter and Adviser to the president. She wrote "Women Who Work" before the 2016 election, when she was the executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization, cofounder of Trump Hotels, and CEO and founder of the Ivanka Trump Collection and IvankaTrump.com.