Main Idea – Be Proactive
We can choose our own response to any signals or information we receive. We have the ability to influence our own actions. Therefore, being proactive means to actively choose what our response will be in any situation rather than to react blindly.
Man is unique in that he alone can think about his very own thought process. Every other creature simply reacts. Man can control his thoughts. This is why we can learn from the generations that have gone before us, and why man can evaluate and learn from other people’s experiences. This is the principle of self-awareness, the most fundamental paradigm. Until we take into account how we see ourselves and others, we limit our ability to relate to others.
Between every stimulus and response, rational human beings have the freedom to choose a response. This is due to the presence of; n Self-awareness – the ability to control thoughts.
- Imagination – the ability to mentally create a new reality. n Conscience – an inner awareness of right and wrong.
- Independent will – the ability to act on thoughts.
In other words, animals can’t change their programming but human beings can write their own directions on how to treat new situations. Each person has the ability to be either reactive or proactive in every situation that arises. This is the true meaning of “response-ability” – the ability to choose our own response. Proactive people are highly responsible.
Proactivity means to subordinate impulses to values. Reactive people are swept away by the heat of the moment. Proactive people are driven by values that are both well thought out and internalized.
It is not what happens that is important. It is our response to whatever happens that makes all the difference. Often, the most difficult circumstances become crucibles that forge our character and develop hidden reserves of strength. What matters most in life is not what happens to us, but how we respond to whatever happens. Our basic nature is to act, not to wait to be acted upon. We have the ability to take the initiative in any situation we are in. Everyone either waits to be acted on or takes responsibility for their own course and make the appropriate decisions.
Being proactive doesn’t mean being pushy, aggressive or insensitive. Rather, proactivity means to control a situation from the inside out. Or in other words, to affect positive change, stop focusing on the immediate circumstances and instead consider your response to the conditions that exist. Do that and you have removed the power of anything external to affect you.
While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. Consequences are governed by natural law outside our influence. We can, for example, decide whether or not to step in front of a moving train but we cannot decide what will happen when the train hits us. We are free to choose our response to any situation, but in doing so we automatically choose the attendant consequence.
It is in the ordinary events of every day that we develop our proactive skills. It is in the little things that we show our true character traits. Our response to the little irritations in life will also affect responses to disasters.
Reference – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey