Being Effective (part 2)

Part 2, or chapter 2, begins Habit 1: Be Proactive

Be Proactive
Be Proactive [a]
We need to recognise that we have the freedom and power to choose how we respond to stimulus (e.g. our situation, misfortune, circumstances, people’s behaviour towards us, etc). Unless one’s mental capacity is severely incapacitated or one’s autonomy is controlled by others, we are all responsible for how we act. Our behaviour is a product of our conscious choice, based on values. If our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have – by conscious decision or by default – chosen to empower those things to control us, i.e. by being reactive.

Covey quotes two notable figures, whose quotes are worth quoting here {okay sorry for the lack of word choices}:

“No one can hurt you without your consent.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

“They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”

– Mohatma Ghandi

These simple sentences give us important life lessons, that we all have the power to determine how something/someone impacts us, and whether we allow them to do so.

I think we all tend to let our present emotions and impulses rule over our heads. And even if we may later on think about how we should have reacted instead, we still succumb to that usual, unconstructive response. Asking us to turn this impulse/feeling-based reaction to a value (or a response more positive I guess) sounds ridiculously naïve and simple-minded. But then, without trying how can we know we can’t do it? We are, in Covey’s words, “response-able”. We can choose to start learning today on how to change our emotions-based reaction to be more rational, and Covey does explain and guide us on how to do so.

From what I’ve gather, Covey advises us to:

  1. Take the initiative and to use our resourcefulness and initiative in each situation. Attitude is key in this.
  2. Act or be acted upon. Step up and take the first action to work something/event/situation to your advantage.
  3. No matter how desolate the situation is, it can be made more optimistic if we do not always seek to shift the blame on something/someone other than ourselves. Throw away all thoughts that begin with “if…”, “only…”, and “have…”. For example “if only I was born this way…” or “Had he not done this, I would have…”. Instead, work on how you could have acted, on “be…” – “I can be more positive about…”.
Reactive & Proactive Language [b]
Reactive & Proactive Language [b]
  1. He asks us to focus our efforts in the ‘Circle of Influence’, working on things we can do (influence) something about. Accept the things/situational realities (which affect us in this ‘Circle of Concern’) we have no control over; and not try to change/manipulate how others should behave/be like. One problem we do have control over is our own selves. We should work on our attitude, behaviour, responses, etc. to complement others/address the problem instead of complaining about others, the latter which counteracts any progress into alleviating the situation.
Circle of Concern & Influence
Circle of Concern & Influence [c]
  1. The problem is not “out there”, and we can do/be something else to effect positive change out there.
  2. We also need to realise that we may make wrong choices – called mistakes – bringing about consequences we have no decision over. Hence a proactive approach would be to acknowledge it, correct it, and learn from it.

These (so-called) unique human characteristics of self-awareness, conscience and consciousness, can be used to identify areas of weakness, improvement and talent that could be developed or that needs to be changed. We can use our imagination and independent will to act on that awareness by making promises, commitments and developing integrity to these commitments. According to Covey, this helps build strength of character, honour and ability to accept more of the responsibility for our own lives.

Proactive VS Reactive
Proactive VS Reactive [d]
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[a] ©

[b] ©

[c] ©

[d] ©