Habit One – Be Proactive (and stop the Poor Me stuff)

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I had to proactively read this chapter THREE times to get a handle on it. The language is so dense and full of ‘Principle Centred-Paradigms’ and ‘Character Ethics’, it’s near on impossible to read more than a paragraph without wanting a cigarette break. And I don’t even smoke.

But I’m not going to complain, oh no. That’s not what proactive people do.


Proactivity means that as human beings we are responsible for our own lives. Proactive people take initiative, they make things happen, they don’t blame anybody for their circumstances.

Reactive people think they have no control of their lives and are hostage to their circumstances. They blame the weather, their boss, their husband/wife/mother/friends.

Obviously, the aim of the game is to be proactive.


Covey explains that we can’t necessarily control what happens to us in life but we can control our reaction to it.

So when Viktor Frankl was in German concentration camps, having lost his family, he knew couldn’t control his physical circumstances but he could control how he thought and felt. He would spend hours imagining his wife or what what he would do after he left, picturing himself doing lectures around the world.  He transcended circumstances that most of us can’t even imagine. He survived the camps and went on to write one of the most influential books of the 20th Century – Man’s Search for Meaning.

This is called, according to Covey, working in your ‘Circle of influence’.

Apparently in life there are two circles:

The ‘Circle of influence’ is everything in life that you can do something about.

The ‘Circle of Concern’ is stuff that’s out of our control – other people’s reactions or behaviour, the economy. Stuff that it’s totally pointless worrying about but which many of us doing waste our energy thinking about.


Covey’s challenge is for 30 days to do things ONLY IN your Circle of influence – i.e. do all the things you can do to improve your life. So in my case that would be:

I’ve been moaning about putting on weight, so I will exercise once a day and eat 5 veg a day (more veg means less room for cake)
I’m drinking too much so drink less. Duh. I will have three nights booze free each week (I know this still makes me a booze hound but it’s realistic)
I’m frustrated with my productivity – so do min 4 hours of writing a day.
I know that meditating helps with my energy but I haven’t been doing it for the last few months-so I will do it at least once a day for 20 mins.
Money –  I worry constantly about money but I just need to do more paid work and be more organised with my time so I can fit it in with the blog. Target: One paid piece a week.


But I’m not allowed to just say I’m going to do this things. I have to actually do them. Covey, unsurprisingly, is big into keeping your commitments.

This is something I am terrible at. These days it’s all to easy to slip out of what you say you’re going to do – by text, by emails and our ‘live in the moment’ culture means that we can sacrifice long term good for a quick fix of pleasure now. It’s infuriating for others and disempowering for me.

‘As we make and keep commitments – even small commitments – we establish inner integrity – an awareness of self control that means we can take on more. Making and keeping a little promise mean our honour becomes greater than our moods,’ writes Covey.


Finally, he says to watch your language – but what Covey calls ‘Reactive language’ or ‘victim language’. So when we say things like:

I’m crap with money, (message: there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s just the way I am) 
She’s so annoying (message: it’s not my fault it’s hers) 
If only I had more time (it’s out of my control, I’m a victim of circumstance) 
I’m tired (poor me) 
I have to go to there/ do that (Covey argues we don’t HAVE to do anything, it’s all a choice) 

He says that reactive language becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we use it we feel victimised and out of control which makes us feel even less in control.

This REALLY REALLY strikes a chord with me. I am a master at POOR ME LANGUAGE (and thinking). This summer a friend offered to shoot me the next time I uttered the phrase ‘I’m not very good at…’ I didn’t realise it but apparently I say that all the time: ‘I’m not very good at getting things done, I’m not very good with numbers, I’m not very good at saying no to people, I’m not very good at organising myself etc etc.’

This friend is a very successful and direct person. She told me to stop being such a wimp and grow a pair. Kind of what Stephen Covey is saying but in different language. Actually maybe ‘Grow a Pair’ could be the sequel to my 37 Habits of Highly Ineffective People? I can see me on Oprah already… xx

Also, in the name of being proactive and less stupid when it comes to matters of money, I’ve signed up with Amazon affiliates. It means that if you buy the book through the links on my site I get a tiny portion of the sales, which helps me to keep the blog going.

[easyazon_link asin=”0684858398″ locale=”UK” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”hemebl08-21″]The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People[/easyazon_link]

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