“If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.

- Stephen Covey

Proactivity is, according to Stephen Covey, one of the most important characteristics of successful and personally effective people. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey sees proactivity as the foundation of all the other 6 Habits, and therefore has proactivity as Habit #1.

Covey regards proactivity as the act of taking charge of your life, being responsible for it, and taking action to master your life. Covey focuses on choice as a principle that underlies proactivity, as we ultimately have the choice on how we respond to what happens to us in our lives and it is our reactions that determine how things affect us. People who lack the proactivity habit tend to be more reactive, seeing themselves as victims of circumstance, unable to change their reactions, thus feeling much less empowered.

People who play the game of “tit for tat” in an argument are being reactive.  They are reacting to what the other person is saying rather than being grounded and more rational where they take responsibility for their emotional triggers.  The mentality that “he makes me so mad” or “she made me feel bad about myself” are examples of the victim language

Underlying the Habit of Proactivity according to Covey are:      

  • The ability to set goals and work towards achieving them.
  • Creating opportunities, not waiting for them to come your way
  • Taking conscious control of your life
  • Understanding the choice you have in engineering your life
  •  Applying your own personal principles and core values in making decision
  •  Having imagination and creativity to explore possible alternatives
  • Realizing you have independent will to choose your own unique response.

Covey differentiates between the “have’s” and the “be’s.” The latter focuses on your character and how you can take charge of your life. Instead of focusing on the thought “If I had a better job,” a proactive person would focus on thoughts like “I can be more resourceful to find another job or make the best of this one.”

Proactive Takeaways

  1.  Remember the importance of being proactive and not reactive!
  2.  If you feel like a rudderless boat which is in chaotic motion without you taking charge at the helm, remind yourself that you can take the helm and can be the captain of your ship.
  3.  Write a specific action plan, whether it be a checklist, schedule, or chart in which you reward yourself for sticking to your goals.
  4.  Replace Covey’s “Have” thoughts with “Be” thoughts – For example: The thought “If I had a better boss” can be changed to “I can “be” a more effective employee.
  5.  Enlist support. Do not hesitate to seek support from others in sticking to your plans. Just because you are the captain of your life does not mean that you need to go it alone. It’s always nice to have crew!
  6.  Plan ways to manage your time and do not spread yourself too thin! Do not let your time divide you – you can divide your time.

So, if you find yourself having a hard time taking your power back from others, how about spending some quiet time and writing down at least three “have” phrases and transform them into “be” phrases?  As you become stronger about your own sense of empowerment, you will find yourself growing by leaps and bounds.

(Photo credit: Crossing out reactive and writing proactive via Shutterstock)

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