6 Things To Help You Become A More Proactive Person

THIS PIECE IS BASED ON THE BOOK “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey 

  • Principles of Personal Vision
    The author of the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Steven R. Covey starts his elaboration on the First Habit with a challenge: He asks the reader to observe and examine himself objectively as if he was someone else. Feelings, mood and the alertness of the mind shall be included. Covey argues that the ability of reflection and ‘self-awareness’ that is illustrated by the capability of carrying out such task is a uniquely human feature. Human beings are able to reflect on the nature of the motifs of their own behavior.

  • ‘Proactivity defined’
    Covey describes proactivity as the recognition and the derivation of an initiative imperative from our ability to respond to stimuli in a way that is not determined by simple conditioning but by our voluntary and active engagement in making choices. Proactive people in turn to reactive people decide their lives by the decisions the consciously make and do not pass the blame for anything happening on to circumstances or other people. Proactive people are continually involved in a process of self-reflection and deliberate choice of right and wrong and the according values. If one does not realize one’s ability to choose, one is automatically consenting to being governed by conditioning and outside influences that will determine the course of life. The example of a woman who suffered from the temper of one of her patients for years and during Covey’s speech finally came to realize that it was she who was letting him hurt her portrays the idea. Covey claims that whenever we feel hurt, the pain does not derive from the actual incident but from the ideational realization of accepting to get hurt. The author emphasizes that he is not referring to economic or physical harm. Instead he claims that our very self, our personality cannot be hurt unless we acquiesce in such to happen. Especially in very adverse circumstances the consciousness of personal freedom can awake great hope and be a source of emotional strength. Acting based on the principle of personal integrity as a consequence of the freedom to choose can even inspire and lead others. A friend of the author, who despite her fatal illness demonstrated emotional strength, spread love and served as an example for the people around her, serves as an illustration of this idea. To put it in a nutshell, specifically challenging situations can bring forth our very attitude towards life and the values we stand for.

  • The Social Mirror
    Interpersonal comments and evaluations of our own personality stemming from our fellow men and communities are often biased, exaggerated and distorted by social paradigms. They create a picture of humans being subdued to conditioning and controlled by those paradigms. The author disagrees with the idea of determination by paradigm and explains three schools of determinism: Genetic, psychic and environmental determinism. The first school argues that our genes regulate our response to stimuli. The second one blames the parents and thereby the way of upbringing of the child. Environmental determinism states that we people adopt responses to stimuli according to how they are being handled in their community, culture, any people around them and generally the environment.

  • Between Stimulus and Response
    In order to counter argue against those theories that all share the notion of determinism, Covey cites the example of Victor Frankl, a prisoner of the Nazis during the Third Reich. Despite all the barbarities and unspeakable crimes against humanity he experienced, Frankl found peace and calmness in one idea: No matter how much he was at the mercy of his imprisoners, no cruelty could take his freedom of making decisions and deciding among existing options away from him. This freedom of choice consists in the self-awareness alongside imagination, conscience and independent will and shows how human beings do not have to be a subject of determinism by paradigms and conditioning which fundamentally distinguishes from animals.

  • Taking the Initiative
    In the following paragraph the author applies the idea of proactivity to the reality of getting the job and the successful career one wants. During his work as a counselor Covey encountered many people asking for advice. What unites all of them is that they do not show proactivity. Instead of preparing themselves actively for a job they want but do not yet have they wait and despair. His advice is to search the solutions to the issues the dream company struggles with and present oneself as the one who can fix things.

  • Act or Be Acted Upon
    Covey argues that this true initiative is what makes the difference. In business when we face adverse economic circumstances, it is advisable to take a solution-oriented approach. Rather than getting absorbed in how unsolvable the situation seems, we must focus on the options we have to respond to the current conditions. Deciding for something from the realm of the possible is a rewarding feeling that exhibits a ‘no giving up attitude’. Reactiveness on the contrary would only enforce the feeling of misery and impotence and cause the acceptance of the negative state. An initiative to focus on shares values in the firm however builds up a positive atmosphere.


Svea Freiberg

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