Covey’s Habits: 1. Be proactive

“Everyone talks of apathy, but no one does anything about it.”
-Anonymous

Being proactive may be the single most important habit change that you’ll ever achieve. By being proactive you take control, you choose what you life is about. Life is not “happening” to you anymore.

When I was in university I found the following quote in one of my marketing books:

“There are 5 types of companies:
- Those who make things happen
- Those who think they make things happen
- Those who watch things happen
- Those who wonder what the heck happened
- Those that didn’t know anything had happened”

This is true for people as well. Being proactive is about making things happen. It is about YOU making things happen, it is up to you!

Choosing a response

Our daily lives are filled with stimuli (other people, television, radio, e-mail, internet, blogs, weather, traffic, and so on). Luckily we are able to filter out a lot of these stimuli, we could not function properly if we couldn’t (the inability to filter stimuli is one of the characteristics of autism and pervasive development disorders).

But filtering out stimuli is not enough. From an evolutionary viewpoint we have developed a lot of standard responses to stimuli. A stimulus happens and we respond in a split second. BANG! WHOA! It happens to us all day (and for emergency situations probably for the better). However we have the ability to choose a response when we create a gap between a stimulus and a response. According to Stephen Covey we can do this because of:

  • self awareness
  • independent will
  • creative imagination
  • conscience

Not doing this makes us a function of our environment, as the stimuli from the environment would be the single defining factor for our behavior. That doesn’t sound very appealing now does it?

Proactive language

One of the ways you can recognize proactive or reactive attitudes is language. You can recognize reactive language by the fact that the origin of action is outside the person. Pro-active language is the opposite, you take control of the action.

Reactive:
Something should be done about it.
Pro-active:
I’m going to solve this issue.

Reactive:
I’ll try to do better.
Pro-active:
I’ll do better.

Reactive:
If only I had enough money, I would re-do my bathroom.
Proactive:
I want to re-do the bathroom, now how can I get the money for it?

Words and language are very powerful. It works both ways, you recognize the attitude by the language, but you can change your attitude by the language as well! Start talking proactive, and you will set your mind to taking action. Just like that.

Other resources about being pro-active:

Next week is about habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

Can’t wait? You can buy Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at Amazon, or as an audiobook here. There’s also an audiobook on this habit alone.

PS: I cannot remember whether the quotes are attributed to someone. It they are, please let me know, and I’ll correct the references.

Posted in spilling beans on Tue 2007.05.22

{ 2 comments }

Michael@ Awareness * Connection August 21, 2008 at 23:53

Covey was my into into formal productivity lit. His being responsive rather than reactive always struck a cord with me. God your site looks good.

Michael@ Awareness * Connection’s last blog post..Hamsterbilities: Preparing Kids for Responsibilty

santosh March 7, 2010 at 13:50

we all should fallow our covey habits

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