Stephen Covey in his classic book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, provides this first crucial habit, “BE PROACTIVE”. This is the habit of owning your life vs being a victim. It is the cornerstone paradigm to positive life change.
People engage my professional services because they want change. They typically want a change in their cash flow, in their customers, in their employees, or a in their work/life balance. The good news is that all of this can change for the better. The interesting news is you can’t directly change any of those circumstances. To affect a sustainable change in your life situation, you must truly change yourself. We don’t control our circumstances, but we can control ourselves. When you personally change for the better, you become more effective in influencing your environment and other people. It is an inside-out process.
Life comes at all of us at a rapid pace. We are bombarded with messages, people’s needs and problems, and business and life challenges every day. The key to responding well is learning to stop ……. think …….. and then RESPOND to circumstances based on your values instead of REACTING out of mere habit or emotion.
You see the need and desire to change. The most difficult first step is to stop! Stop and evaluate what you are currently doing! Realize that you don’t “have” to do anything. Stop blaming others and making excuses for your problems. Take back the ownership of your life and choices. Get out of denial, face the real challenge, and take full accountability and responsibility for YOUR choices and response. This is being proactive.
Dealing effectively with the past is another proactive practice. You can certainly learn from the victories and the mistakes of your past, but you don’t have to allow your past to be your story going forward. The fact is what you remember about the past is not complete or accurate. It is selective and filtered. The past is over. It only continues to exist in your mind. You cannot re-live it or change it. You can reinvent your life every day! Proactivity takes place in the present.
The future, like the past, only exists in your mind. You can’t live tomorrow today. Anxious thoughts and worries about future “what ifs” only drain your energy and spirit and hinder your effectiveness in the present. It makes sense to plan optimistically, and envision great outcomes, but taking action in the present is what moves you toward your desired outcomes.
A few practical suggestions on how to be proactive. Begin each day with a clear routine. Use your early morning time to think through priorities and choices for the day. Write down and commit to a few specific, non-urgent actions in line with your values that will move you toward your long-term goals. Renew yourself with physical exercise and a healthy breakfast. Practice gratitude by reflecting on your blessings. Start each day with a full tank, ready to go! Jim Rohn, business philosopher, states it this way “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job”. That is some great proactive advice!