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:
PRINCIPLES OF PERSONAL VISION
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
>> Letter # 30 (8.9.2003)