There are a lot of aspects to Habit 1, Be Proactive. The most important aspect to me is that “if there is a will, there is a way;” whatever I need to improve about myself, I can with discipline and humbleness.
Constant self-improvement has been vital for me to be successful in my business and personal life. I had to improve on a lot of things. Many of them were quite hard.
Initially, my biggest obstacle was my speech. I had a speech issue as a child and went to speech therapy until I was about thirteen years old. When I quit, the doctor was concerned that by quitting it would jeopardize my ability to get a job which required speaking.
If I let myself believe that limit on myself, I would have been too afraid to go for my business dreams. My mentality was that no one can put limits on me, but me. I was dedicated to improving my speech and building my confidence in conversing with people.
Everyone has things to improve about ourselves. Proactive mentality and action will do it.
My copy of Stephen R. Covey’sThe Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is signed by the author and constantly referenced. Most noticeable is that it is dog-eared, and well worn,—a sign not of neglect, but rather of its indispensability and enduring appeal over the years. I find its ideas as relevant and meaningful today, as when they were first introduced over 20 years ago.
One passage in particular always strikes a chord:
“…[I]f you want to have a happy marriage, be the kind of person who generates positive energy and sidesteps negative energy rather than empowering it. If you want to have a more pleasant, cooperative teenager, be a more understanding, empathic, consistent, loving parent. If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. If you want the secondary greatness of recognized talent, focus first on primary greatness of character.”
What resonates is the premise that we must look within to find the change we seek and to become our best selves. We must first earn self-mastery and develop great character—what Covey calls achieving the “private victories.” Only then, can we achieve the “public victories” of teamwork, cooperation, communication, social recognition and influence. And to sustain this success, we must internalize “Seven Habits” that embody fundamental principles at the foundation of true effectiveness, such as fairness, integrity, honesty, dignity, service, quality, potential and growth.
These “Seven Habits” express a simple yet compelling idea: To be effective, we must adopt a principle-centered, character-based approach. We must work from the “inside-out,” guided by the habits that correspond with each stage along the “Maturity Continuum.”
Habits 1 (Be Proactive), 2 (Begin with the End in Mind) and 3 (Put First Things First) make up the private victories that move us from dependence on circumstances and other people to greater independence, self-reliance and personal accountability. These first three habits help us build the character base from which we can progress to interdependence, the stage when we cooperate and work successfully with others to attain “public victories” that are greater than anything we could accomplish independently. All of the Habits are just that, habits and principles that we can incorporate in our daily lives through discipline.
Habit 7, “Sharpen the Saw,” makes all the other habits possible through self-renewal and continuous improvement. This habit focuses on balancing the doing with our ability and capacity to do, so we preserve and enhance our most valuable asset—us.
At whatever stage along the path to maturity we may be, the “Seven Habits” offer us a powerful framework to solve problems, maximize opportunities, enrich relationships and continually learn and grow. For over two decades, the “Seven Habits” have given us the tools to create the lives, livelihoods and relationships we most desire—effective, productive and purposeful.
Each of the Seven Habits will be the topic of our blog for the next several weeks. Focusing on these is in itself a good habit.
The book begins, “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is a another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels perhaps there isn’t.”
When I read this seventeen years ago to my daughter, I thought “I am Edward Bear.” I felt that I was not getting the business results that I wanted, yet I kept doing the same things over and over. I realized that I need to approach my work week differently.
This probably happens to most business people at some point. What do you do about it? One suggestion is to talk to a mentor or to key people on your team to get their perspective. Another suggestion is to spend more time on your weekly planning challenging yourself as to what is one or two things that you can do, besides the normal maintenance, that would get the business to a different level.