The first habit highly effective people need is ‘Proactivity.’ To be proactive is ‘to be responsible for your own life’ It means working towards your desired outcomes and results rather than just simply sitting back and waiting for them to happen.
Proactive people use their initiative and recognise that they have the responsibility to consciously choose how to react to any situation. They don’t blame anybody else or any circumstances, they assess them and form a positive response based on their own carefully planned out values.
Gandhi said, “They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.” Your response to what has happened to you affects you more than what actually happened. You can choose to use difficult situations to build your character and develop the ability to better handle such situations in the future.
The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. Reactive people don’t base decisions on principles or values but base them on what is happening around them – they lack the knowledge, skill and desire to change.
Once you have the desire to be proactive, you must decide where to focus your energies. Stephen Covey introduces the idea that people have two circles – the Circle of concern and the Circle of influence. Where you decide to focus your time and energy determines how proactive you are.
Your circle of influence involves things that you can do something about, whereas your circle of concern involves things over which you have no control. Reactive people seem to believe they are ‘conditioned’ and can not change things as things are beyond their control so tend to focus on their circle of concern – things they can not change. They lack a sense of personal responsibility and blame others, use reactive language and they always feel like the victim.
Proactive people would choose to focus on their circle of influence in situations such as these. They’d acknowledge the situation but rather than feeling sorry for themselves and feeling helpless – they’d ask ‘What can I do better?’ They realise that they need to formulate a positive response and correct any mistakes as soon as possible so that these mistakes have no power over their next movement and they are empowered again. If they couldn’t think of a response or how to make a positive change they’d cut their losses and focus their energy on something where they could, rather than wasting time and becoming ineffective.
As people become more proactive and focus on things they can do something about in a positive way, their circle of concern shrinks and their circle of influence grows, making them much more effective. They begin to view things differently and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The important point to take from this first habit is that it is up to you to do whatever is in your power to get the best out of your situations in life. Focus on your circle of influence rather than your circle of concern. You will influence your life more than anyone else can and remember you are only ever the victim if you allow yourself to be.