With 2017 just around the corner, it’s the time of year when we reflect on the twelve months behind us and think about the many ways in which we’d like to grow and develop in the year ahead.
After all, most of us want to become better people in the New Year. We set goals or write down resolutions that will guide us and hopefully change us into individuals of whom we can be proud once another December comes again.
An incredibly popular goal during this season is simply the desire to finally accomplish our dreams, whatever those dreams might be. One might say that people in general want to be more effective. They want to manage their time better, they want to be more productive, and they want to make excellent use of their life here on earth.
So to guide you over the next few weeks as we usher in 2017, we’re starting a new series on the popular bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. First published in 1989, this essential manual filled with powerful lessons in personal change has continued to entirely transform lives—both for individuals and for mega corporations alike.
Our hope is that each brief glimpse into the habits outlined in Covey’s book will help you to become more effective in both your personal and professional life, thereby allowing you to achieve more and accomplish your wildest dreams.
So let’s begin!
Habit #1: Be Proactive
What does it mean to be proactive?
Author Siim Land says this about it: “In principal, we’re in full control – we’re the boss. Being proactive means that you don’t let your situation dictate your reality. It’s about taking extreme ownership over one’s life and rising above circumstance…We are not our feelings, our moods nor our paradigms but the higher awareness behind them. Self-awareness is the fundamental perception of effectiveness because you have the possibility to choose to optimize your behavior.
“Being reactive [on the other hand] means that you take a passive stance towards life – the world is happening to YOU and the problem is somewhere out there. Such people say things like: ‘There’s nothing I can do’, and will simply stand there while getting beaten. Or when they fail miserably: ‘That’s just who I am – I have those failure genes.’ Because of their own limiting beliefs and doubts, they start re-creating their own self-fulfilling prophecies over and over again.
“Proactive people, on the other hand, realize that they’re in control – they have the responsibility and ‘response-ability’, which is the ability to choose how you’re going to react to a given stimulus or situation.”
To put it another way, being proactive is to take initiative, it’s to be a self-started. You don’t wait for opportunities to come your way. Instead, you venture forth and create the opportunities for yourself. You open your own doors. You make your own terms. Think of it as acting as opposed to being acted upon.
Being proactive also means minding your language.
“Language has a hugeimpact on the way we perceive the world and what beliefs we have,” author Siim Land goes on to say. “People who talk reactively take the responsibility off themselves and project it onto others or their circumstance.”
Covey outlines examples of reactive and proactive language in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
- Reactive Language: There’s nothing I can do. That’s just the way I am. He makes me so mad. They won’t allow that. I have to do that. I can’t. I must. If only.
- Proactive Language: Let’s look at our alternatives. I can choose a different approach. I control my own feelings. I can create an effective presentation. I will choose an appropriate response. I choose. I prefer. I will.
Remember, the words we speak very often create the reality we experience, so it’s essential we use words that are proactive and empowering.
Finally, being proactive means focusing on your circle of influence.
We each have a Circle of Concern. It can contain things such as our health, our children, our debts, problems at work, and so on. Some of these things we have no control over. Some of them we do, and these items would go in our Circle of Influence because we can influence them in some way.
Which circle are you focusing the majority of your time and energy on? Covey writes that “proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.”
By taking the initiative, minding your language, and focusing the majority of your time and energy on the issues you can influence, you’ll gradually become more and more proactive. As a proactive individual, you’ll understand that you alone are responsible for your life and can choose to make it whatever you want it to be. It’s a powerful mindset shift, and one that will help you accomplish more in the long run.