“I” vs “We”

If you are familiar with the Twelve Steps, you will immediately notice that the Proactive Twelve Steps are written from “I” instead of “we.”

It was a deliberate choice, but not an easy one. I will talk more about the reasons for this choice after acknowledging the strong arguments in favor of the “we” of the original Twelve Steps.

The “we” perspective conveys a powerful message: You are not alone. You are part of a group that has overcome what is too daunting for any individual to successfully confront independently.

From the first time you read the Steps, you can feel that you are part of a successful group. The “we” also reinforces the notion that success is not something that one achieves through sheer willpower, fighting alone against the way the world works. Success involves following a path that others have already taken.

So, why not maintain the “we” for the Proactive Twelve Steps?

Essentially, the “I” statements convey the sense that this is a personal journey of self-discovery and self-development. You confront complex issues, make choices, and learn from experience. Self-confidence literally refers to the growing confidence you have in yourself.

It does not mean you are alone. You seek support from others and acknowledge it. But you have a sense of being actively involved in the process of change. You are proactive and mindful. Your attitude reflects a growing sense of responsibility for yourself: “This is important to me, and I will do what it takes.”

This is also why the Proactive Twelve Steps are written in the present tense instead of the past tense. They focus on the moment-by-moment struggle to find serenity, courage, and wisdom as you deal with the challenges of life. Being mindful means living in the present moment.

Much of the process described in this book involves learning from experience the difference between trying to force change through willpower and being proactive in a mindful way. Suffice it to say, at this point, that the “I” of the Proactive Twelve Steps is not a lonely “I” trying to force change through self-deprivation. It is an observing “I” that is deeply attuned to inner processes and interactions with other people.

In this sense, it is an “I” that has learned to accept the realities of the world. But this acceptance does not mark the death of the self. It is just the death of a lonely, desperate, powerless “I” and the birth of a much larger, more flexible, more effective, and much happier “I.”