Habit 1 of 7 from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

In my first blog entry on Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I shared about the importance of maintaining a balance of the P/PC Equation. It is easy to focus on just the P or PC. I think it takes true leadership and discipline to maintain the right balance.

I have just completed reading on the first habit and this entry will more or less be my summary of understanding of that chapter. Now, before you read on, let me remind you that the content in this entry is based on my own understanding of the respective points shared in the book.

Should you feel that I am inaccurate in my interpretation or if you have a different perspective of any of these points, feel free to drop me note. I would love to hear from you.

The First Habit
After all the different hats that I’ve worn in the past 14 years, I think there is nothing more important than making a change with this first habit.

In the past 14 years, I have taken roles from an intern to a freelancer, from an employee to an employer, from a student to a trainer, from a director to a partner of a company.

There is always one part of the story that have always been true and never change; one who wins the race is always one who take initiative to act, hustles and taking responsibility for themselves and the work that they do.

While many personal development trainers or coaches, that I’ve come across, would require us to start off with a goal or having the end in mind, I think, Stephen Covey was more on the mark when he began with a habit. Personally, I think goal setting in itself require the habit of proactive-ness. Otherwise, we will keep ‘recycling’ the goals from the previous year, every year.

So what is ‘proactive’? I interpret proactive as taking initiative to act and hustle responsibly. The word responsibility, according to the book, consists of two words; response and ability, which really indicates the ability to choose a response.

We choose to be lazy or hardworking, we choose to eat that hotdog and not that apple, we choose to sit on the couch and watch re-runs on cable television instead of reading a book or go for a jog. All these happened because we chose to.

And that also includes the choices we take when we’re dealing with a difficult customer, or in a heated debate with a colleague, etc.

In other words, we are born and blessed with the gift of choice. We choose to be proactive or reactive. We can choose whether to blame our circumstances, conditions or behavior for the results we got or the state we were in. The moment we start the blame, whether you like it or not, we are empowering that entity.

How many success stories have we read about someone who was poor and ended up very wealthy? Or what about a person with cancer or serious obesity getting them cured and lived happy, healthy lives? The question ‘how did they do it?’ is something that has been ringing in my ears over the years. My answer? Be proactive!

Have you heard or read about Morris E. Goodman aka The Miracle Man? This is one guy who, not only survive a plane crash that left him paralyzed, unable to breath, talk or swallow, he recovered from all that and shook the hands of his doctor before leaving the hospital.

Morris was flying his personal plane, Cessna 172 in 1981.

Cessna 172 Source: www.m0a.com
Cessna 172
Source: www.m0a.com

The engine unexpectedly lost power and, while trying to make an emergency landing, the plane flew through low-hung power lines and crashed.

Sources online indicated that his Cervical vertebrae broke, his spinal column was crushed and his nerve was permanently damage that led to the disfunctioning of his lungs, liver and kidneys. He was left totally paralyzed, unable to breathe, talk, or swallow on his own.


The only means of communication he could make was with his eyes.

He was not expected to even survive the night.Can you imagine how you will feel in his situation? I think many will give up.

Morris didn’t care what the doctors think, despite their years of experience. He didn’t care that he could not speak. He proactively took total control of his thoughts and actions.

Even in his condition, he paid compliments to his doctors. He controlled the way he responded. He worked hard to re-developed his ability to breathe.

Soon he was breathing on his own without the need of a respirator. The hospital celebrated his ‘recovery’.

A few months later, he was able to talk and eat.

Not long after that, he took his first step, unassisted. The hospital staffs called him ‘The Miracle Man’.

A proactive you and I do not mean we are immune from the environment. It just means that we choose to respond differently.

What separates a proactive person from the rest? Two things; initiative and resourcefulness.

A proactive person acts instead of acted upon. A proactive person does not wait until he has every single resource before he starts to take action because there is no such thing as you have ‘everything’.

A proactive person will change his life before his life changes him.
And remember that P/PC balance I wrote about in the past post? We need initiative to manage that as well.

Interestingly, Stephen Covey wrote about the difference between being proactive and positive thinking, which I am all for it. It is not enough to think positively. It is action that makes a difference.

I love an analogy given by Tony Robbins a few years ago. It goes something like this;

Let’s say you have a garden. And you positively thought to yourself “there’s no weeds”. Will that stop the weeds from sprouting and growing in your garden? No! Weeds will even grow between the cracks of a pavement. You need to get on your knees and pluck out all the weeds before they take over your garden.

If this is a question that you might have, I strongly recommend you reading ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’! Stephen Covey brilliantly explained, with drawing, to help you overcome this.

He explained that in our lives, there is an area of concern, which in his drawing, he describes it as Circle of Concern.


Outside of this circle are matters that you are not concerned about. Within that Circle of Concern, there is a Circle of Influence.


Now, the time you spend most of your time and energy on will determine whether you are a proactive or reactive individual.
A proactive person focuses his time and effort in the Circle of Influence.

According to Stephen Covey, proactive individual radiate a positive energy that in time, will enlarge their circle of influence. In time, they will have influence over matters that used to be out of their control.

A reactive person focuses his time and effort in the Circle of Concern. He is disturbed by politics, the weather, his colleagues’ lack of effort at work, the rumors in the office, and making himself a victim of circumstances.

The more time they spend in the Circle of Concern means they have less time in the Circle of Influence. And in time, their circle of influence will shrink. I think this analogy explains why people of a certain degree of success were able to do more and contribute more.

I remembered a sharing by a speaker and a self made millionaire. His mother-in-law was very ill and the doctors in the general hospital said that ‘there is nothing more they can do’.

Immediately, he got an ambulance and got her transferred to a private hospital that had all the resources and specialists needed. He spent his whole life investing in the circle of influence and from that, he gained several key resources. At that critical moment, he had an influence over the health of someone dear.

So if you want to change your life, commit to spending more time on yourself, your health, the way your respond to people even though they were hateful against you.

Start reading materials that helps you. Smile when your thank the waiter when they served your meals. Show appreciation even to a difficult client.

Over time, you will increase your circle of influence.
Over time, you will have influence over your concerns..

Before that time, Start Being Proactive!

PS: Here are some related posts that might be helpful.

2 Lessons Learned From Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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