The importance of being proactive

Dilemma concept

A book that over the years have inspired me a lot is Stephen Covey’s The 7 habits of highly effective people. The first of Covey’s habits, on which all the six other rest is being proactive. Being proactive means taking full command of your life according to your own abilities.

Covey talks about two circles that are essential for our lives. The first circle is our circle of concern. This circle contains all aspects of life that concern us is one way or the other; our children, our work, our marriage, our other relations, our private economy, our house etc.

The other circle, is our circle of influence. This circle contains all the actions, strategies, intentions we have in order to control and influence our life and our destiny.

If you put your main focus on your circle of concern, you will find yourself being reactive rather than proactive, and then running a big risk of falling into a role of seeing yourself as a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control.

The circle of concern is full of “haves“. You have a lousy job, you have a house with leaking roof, you have a wife that don’t understand you, you have a car that keeps breaking down.

The circle of influence is instead full of “ares“. You are looking for new ways and opportunities, you are behaving in a way that supports your relations, you are trustworthy, you are governed by an internal moral compass, you are taking responsibility for your life.

For many people the circle of concern is much bigger than the circle of influence. The habit of proactivity means to focus on expanding your circle of influence, and looking for opportunities to expand it while being aware of (but not run by) your circle of concerns.

If you have a lousy job, you are exploring ways to change your working conditions or you are looking for a new one. If you have a house and a car, you are maintaining them to avoid problems, and if you have a marriage you are focusing on how you can be a more loving and supporting spouse.

Being proactive does not mean being pushy. It means taking responsibility for your life in a way that is consistent with your values, while taking into account the effects your actions will have on the persons around you.

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Illustration: iStock.com/badmanproduction

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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