Habit 1: Be proactive

Covey starts his discussion of habits with proactivity. I found that the discussion of proactivity as a habit is deep, very well argued and written. Covey introduces proactivity with the experience of Viktor Frankl in the Nazi concentration camps.  Frankl could survive the terrible experience of a concentration camp because he was proactive and had freedom to choose his response to the situation. Far too often we think in terms of our social mirrors, we focus too much on the outside instead of the inside. Thus, proactivity is our ability to be responsible for our lives. Covey argues that we have the power to choose our response to any situation in our lives.

Proactivity is about understanding how we spend our energy. We cannot directly influence outcomes within the circle of concern. Yet, within the circle of influence we can shape our reality and improve our wellbeing. The trick here is to be able to differentiate activities within the circle of concern and the circle of influence. Proactive people exercise initiative and focus on the circle of influence. Covey claims that proactive people are driven by values while reactive people are driven by feelings.

So, how can we change our mindset and become more proactive? Some ideas are to be a better listener, more loving marriage partner, a better student, more cooperative and dedicated employee. Another suggestion of Covey is to look at weaknesses of others with compassion and not accusation. We should also stop acting on scripts developed by our family, friends, school, employer and start to take responsibility for our own path: we are not determined by our social mirror. We should make and keep commitments and promises, in this way we can strengthen our spirits.

For me personally, proactivity is the hardest habit to develop and I need to develop a strategy of getting out of reactive thoughts, social pressures and societal stereotypes. The ideas of proactivity are very simple in theory, but are much harder to implement in practice. My conclusion is that you need to develop a very strong character to be able to practice proactivity daily. This is my aim.

Here are a few inspiring quotes from the book on proactivity (I need to come back to these ideas once in a while):

 “If you start to think that the problem is out there – stop yourself your thought is your problem”

“In choosing our response to circumstance, we powerfully affect our circumstance”

“The problem we face fall in one of three areas: direct control, indirect control or no control”

“The circle of concern is filled with have(s)”

“The circle of influence is filled with be(s)”

Do you practice proactivity? How do you do it?

Take care,


“7 habits” Note 1: personality and character ethic

This is my first reflective note on reading the book “7 habits of highly effective people”. Stephen Covey starts his book with discussing the differences between the personality ethic and the character ethic. While personality ethic is a paradigm that centres around building an image of yourself in the community and quick fixes, character ethic is about fundamental human qualities such as integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, etc.

Both types of ethics are our paradigms, the ways we see the world, our angle on the world. Covey argues that paradigms are about perceiving, understanding and interpreting the world around us. So, personality paradigm is about prioritizing external reality while character ethic is about prioritizing our internal qualities and consciousness. Paradigms are about our values and attitudes. The start of the book made me reflect on my own paradigms and my own behaviour. Why do I always feel the victim of circumstances? Why do I notice a lot of negativity around me?

I definitely need to work on my paradigm and on the way I see the world around me. Covey suggests focusing on inside out thinking: to change yourself first before focusing and judging the world around yourself. This means that instead of focusing on weaknesses of other people, I have to fix and address my own emotional problems and insecurities.

Another powerful tip from Covey is to maintain P (production) and PC (production capability) balance. Covey explains this as the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability). This means that we need to invest in ourselves, in our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, in our professional development, in our growth. The idea is simple, but we tend to forget about it as we are lost in daily routines, pressing deadlines and work pressures. This requires us to save time to reflect and think about planning our future, thinking strategically and then leaving some time each day in our calendar for production capability activities: going to the gym, doing breathing exercises, doing professional development courses, learning a foreign language, etc.

Take care!

Next time we’ll discuss habit 1: be proactive.

Book review: “7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen R. Covey

I believe in signs and when I’ve heard from a couple of people about the fascinating book “7 habits of highly effective people”, I thought I would give this book a second chance. I initially read this book around 12 years ago and do not remember much about its contents. I am also not a big fan of non-fiction self help books that claim to teach you how to write a book in 12 weeks or become a leader in 3 months. I just don’t believe in these superficially imposed claims and slack language. Anyways, “7 habits of highly effective people” is a different type of self-help book that is actually useful and deeply provocative. It is also written as a manual with some exercises to complete after each chapter. This time, I am planning to do the exercises and spend my time on reflection of my daily routines and activities.

A businessman, educator, researcher and writer, Stephen Covey shared with us a deep personal reflection on human effectiveness. Instead of focusing on the quick fix approaches, he uncovers the seven habits that transform our lives and change our perception of the world. I think the power of the book is in our personal reflection on each habit and our unique perspective on these habits. I also believe that the strength of the book is in addressing all aspects of our lives all together rather than superficially separating work, family life, friendship, community service and religious service. Covey argues that all aspects of our lives are interconnected as we pursue our unique mission and goals in life. Similar to a psychologist, Covey asks us to reflect on our past, present and future. What are our values and beliefs? Where are we heading?

So, the seven habits are:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

Revealing, honest and intimate examples from Stephen Covey personal life are very helpful in clarifying the habits and solutions. Stephen is honest that it took him a long time to become aware and embrace his personal problems with his family. The solutions took some effort and determination. The results were heart warming and promising. I believe that everyone should read and re-read this book as a personal development exercise. I recommend this book to my university students. Over the upcoming weeks, I will share some reflections on the exercises relating to each habit.

Stay tuned!