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Be Proactive- to be Highly Effective!

We have been talking about the 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People:

Here's the Number One Habit: Be Proactive!


I know of no more encouraging fact
than the unquestionable ability of man
to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. (HENRY DAVID THOREAU)

As YOU READ letter, try to stand apart from yourself. Try to project your consciousness upward into a corner of the room and see yourself, in your mind's eye, reading. Can you look at yourself almost as though you were someone else? 1
Now try something else. Think about the mood you are now in. Can you identify it? What are you feeling? How would you describe your present mental state?
Now think for a minute about how your mind is working. Is it quick and alert? Do you sense that you are torn between doing this mental exercise and evaluating the point to be made out of it?

Your ability to do what you just did is uniquely human. Animals do not possess this ability. We call it "self-awareness" or the ability to think about your very thought process. This is the reason why man has dominion over all things in the world and why he can make significant advances from generation to generation.
This is why we can evaluate and leam from others' experiences as well as our own. This is also why we can make and break our habits.

We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts. The very fact that we can think about these things separates us from them and from the animal world. Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we "see" ourselves- our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness. It affects not only our attitudes and behaviours, but also how we see other people. It becomes our map of the basic nature of mankind.

"Proactive" Defined
In discovering the basic principle of the nature of man, Frankl described an accurate self-map from which he began to develop the first and most basic habit of a highly effective person in any environment, the habit of proactivity.
While the word proactivity is now a fairly common in management literature, it is a word you won't find in most dictionaries. It means more than merely 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 can subordinate feelings to
values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Look at the word responsibility—"response-ability"—the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not 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.
Because we are, by nature, proactive, if our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have, by conscious decision or by default, chosen to empower those things to control us.
In making such a choice, we become reactive. Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn't, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whtrher it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value-driven; and if their value is to produce quality work, it is not a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.
Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.
As eleanor Roosevelt observed, "No one can hurt you witout your consent." In words of Gandhi, "They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them." It is our wiling permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happens to us in the first place.
Of course, I admit, this is very hard to accept emotionally, especially if we have had years of explaining our misery in the name of circumstance or someone else's behaviour. But until a person can say deeply and honestly, 'I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday," that person cannot say, "I choose otherwise."
It is not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. In other words, what matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.
Be encouraged.

>> Letter # 30 (8.9.2003)

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