Be Proactive - Covey Habit #1 -part A
The first Covey Habit is to "be proactive".
Now when I first heard this I thought this basically meant "do stuff". Proactive people to me were people who simply did things rather than sit and watch, they took the initiative. So to me this was going to be an easy one, and being the first I thought it should be.
Proactivity here is about choice. It's about taking the initiative to stop - think - choose. The biggest hurdle for most of us is realising we have choice. Covey separates what happens around us from how we react to it. I'll say that again another way, as it is extremely core to the chapter and the rest of the book:
Covey separates what happens to us from how we decide to react to it.
At first this sounds like a nice concept, but will it work in reality?
Can you believe it, as I try and write this, my son has set two electronic keyboards to continually play random tunes, it is so loud I can hardly think! So what is happening? There is a lot of noise and I am struggling to concentrate. How am I reacting? I could use my power as a parent to tell him to stop it 'daddy is working' or even go over and unplug it. On the other hand I could accept he wants to do something with me, talk to him about making a time that works for both of us and ask him to let me finish so we can play together sooner. Maybe he does not realise the impact of the noise on my concentration. WOW! - would you believe it, he found the noise annoying also and has just turned it off himself.
Let's look at this as Covey would. My initial response of "TURN THAT DOWN!!!" is completely reactive. It's the second response that Covey would describe as proactive. I took what was happening around me and chose for myself the response that best worked for me. Initially I felt I had no choice, it was so loud and I just wanted it to stop, my initial reaction was to stop it using whatever I had - in this case the authority of being the parent. How much better would have been my second choice?
Proactivity is about accepting that there is always a choice of how you react to things around you. Ok, I can hear you "But surely some things are so basic there simply is no choice". You may not believe me now, but because we can only see through our own eyes, what we perceive as our reality, is often not the reality of others.
There is a model called Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). This is often used where people feel helpless in the face of mounting odds. It is especially effective where people feel they are being oppressed by others for no reason. The model has three steps:
What is the strongest emotion? - Depression, Anger, Fear, or something else? As a side note it can be handy to identify that Depression tends to be about the past, Anger about the present and Fear about the future. This can help guide the appropriate reaction.
What was the trigger for this emotion? Find what incident was at the start of the emotion. Often this might be "He said.." or "They decided..". ie Actions of others. This is identifying the "have done to me" aspect that Covey uses to identify reactive responses. Here we are identifying those reactive responses to help us find proactive ones we can choose from.
What are other reasons or options? Here is where we investigate what might have driven others to make the choices they did. Let's look at my son's music example from above. My strongest emotion was Anger. It was very much in the present. What was the trigger? - My son creating all the noise. Why? - He wanted me to stop working and play with him. I now have a good basis to decide how I am going to respond and be consciously proactive.
To be proactive is then to choose how we respond to what is happening around us. We need to take the initiative and not react to only what we see as the reality. Better to stop, assess and choose the response that best serves us.
Covey also talks about the concept of "Circle of Influence" and "Circle of Concern". These are the second part of "being proactive", and I will discuss them in "Habit 1 - Be Proactive (part b)".
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