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?