Writing helps me to remember things I read and encourages me to think about it again. It has been around one year when I first opened Covey’s bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Recently, I opened this book again and realized that much what is said there is also said under different names in other books. I have highlighted some sentences that seem to me as the most important information and that I would like to share with you.
As people we are conditioned to respond in a particular way to a particular stimulus. This model is shown on the picture below. The most important thing is, that “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose“. Within this freedom, there are 4 endowments that make us uniquely human: self-awareness, imagination (the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality), conscience (a deep inner awareness of right and wrong) and independent will (the ability to act based on out self-awareness, free of all other influences). And again, between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose.
Proactivity is more than just taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.
Highly proactive people don’t blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling. They are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.
I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.
Our language is a very real indicator of the degree to which we see ourselves as proactive people.
|Reactive Language||Proactive Language|
|There’s nothing I can do.||Let’s look at our alternatives.|
|That’s just the way I am.||I can choose a different approach.|
|He makes me so mad.||I control my own feelings.|
|They won’t allow that.||I can create an effective presentation.|
|I have to do that.||I will choose an appropriate response.|
|I can’t.||I choose.|
|I must.||I prefer.|
|If only.||I will.|
Circle of Concern & Circle of Influence
There are two circles: Circle of Concern containing things over which we have no control and Circle of Influence containing things that we can do something about. By determining which of these two circles is the focus of most of our time and energy, we can discover much about the degree of our proactivity.
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. Reactive people focus on their efforts in the Circle of Concern, environment and circumstances over which they have no control. By doing so, their Circle of Influence shrinks.
Proactive people have their Circle of Concern that is at least as big as their Circle of Influence.
Lord, give me the courage to change the things which can and ought to be changed, the serenity to accept the things which cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.
One way to determine which circle our concern is in is to distinguish between the have’s and the be’s. The Circle of Concern is filled with the have’s (“I will be happy when I have my house paid off.”, “If I only had a more patient husband.”). The Circle of Influence is filled with the be’s (“I can be more patient.”, “I can be wise”).
We are free to choose our response in any situation, but in doing so, we choose the attendant consequence. “When we pick up one end of stick, we pick up the other.” There have been times in each of our lives when we have picked up what we later felt was the wrong stick. If we had the choice to make over again, we would make it differently. We call these choices mistakes. The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn form it. This literally turns a failure into a success.
Success is on the far side of failure. – IBM founder T. J. Watson
Our response to any mistake affects the quality of the next moment. It’s important to immediately admin and correct our mistakes so that they have no power over that next moment and we are empowered again.
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Free Press, 2004.