Habit 1: Be Proactive

Each of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a statement of optimism. Whatever your situation may be, you have the power to make it better by implementing these habits in your daily life. Much like a Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer teaches you how to improve your physical strength, practicing The 7 Habits will strengthen your stamina in terms of your relationships, your mental health, your emotional well-being, and your ability to grow and develop personally, even amid challenges.

The beautiful message of Habit One: Be Proactive is this: You can do more than merely hope you’ll have a good day. Instead, you can make it so. The truth is, you decide how you spend your time. You can choose what you become.

That’s not to say that you won’t face opposition. Worthwhile goals are always an uphill climb with contrary elements waiting to trip you up. You’ll stumble from outside forces and from weaknesses within yourself. However, if you choose to be proactive, you will find ways to work around the obstacles you encounter along the way—you’ll realize that setbacks are common, sometimes devastating, but rarely game ending.

The opposite of being proactive is to be reactive. When you’re reactive, you surrender your control over a situation to someone or something else. If you’re reactive, you can find all sorts of reasons to point at to explain why things don’t go as you would like. Being reactive leaves you feeling helpless—like a victim. It’s as though life is acting upon you without your consent, rather than feeling as though you can choose your adventures and work toward them come what may.

So, how do we become proactive?

“Proactivity means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.”

—Stephen R. Covey

Being proactive takes effort. The truth is, each one of us is both proactive and reactive at different times in our lives. That’s part of being human. But being reactive rarely brings the results you hope for. Luckily, you can modify your behaviors and develop a proactive mindset one choice at a time.

Some of the most powerful behavior modification tools you’ll ever find are a pen and paper. Thinking about what you would love to have or achieve utilizes the imaginative side of your brain. As long as that idea stays in the imaginative hemisphere, the other half of your brain—the side that deals with logic and reality, can largely ignore it as fantasy.

The act of writing your dreams on paper requires the logic-based half of your brain, which forces it to consider the idea as a true possibility. Once both sides of your brain are engaged, you start to see the various steps that could take you from where you are to where you want to be. Suddenly, your dream becomes a goal.

Being proactive is not simply a platitude to chew on over breakfast. It’s much deeper than that—it’s more personal than that. Being proactive implies that you are more powerful than you think, or you’re at least as powerful as you plan to be.

Start With A Long-Term Vision

At the beginning of each month, spend some time considering your aspirations in each area of your life. What kind of spouse do you want to become? How do you plan to improve your time with your family? What are your career and personal goals?

From this broad vision, determine what specific things you’ll do to get you closer to that ideal. Write these goals down on Goal Planning Forms. As you fill out your form for each goal, break your goal into small, simple steps and set dates when you’ll reach each step. Schedule those steps on your Monthly Calendar Tabs in your planner.

During your weekly and daily planning sessions, refer to your monthly calendar tabs to be sure you schedule those activities into your day. It won’t take long for you to see the progress you’re hoping for. When you acknowledge that you have the power to act and that you can start right where you are, the whole world opens up to you.

Getting Started

What if you’d like to create your own side hustle, but you don’t have any capital to get it started? The reactive person would throw up his or her hands and say, “I guess it’s not for me.” But because you’re proactive, you choose a different approach that looks something like this:

  • First, you determine how much money you need to save to get started and write that amount in your planner: Save/earn/gather $8,000, for example.
  • Next, you’ll consider all the ways that you could get that money: Save a set amount each payday, do freelance work, get a second job, look into small business loans, etc. Write this list in your planner, and take note of the pros and cons of each.
  • Then you’ll set a date for when you’ll have the money saved, and open a separate business account at your bank so you can get started.

To throw up your hands signals defeat before you even start. But when you write your goal out, you begin to see the steps more clearly and anticipate what you’ll do next. Which response is going to get you where you want to be faster?

Start Each Day With a Plan

If you want to be truly successful, this writing exercise can’t be a one-time event. You need to look at your goals and consider your progress daily. If you take ten minutes each day to schedule your events and decide which tasks matter most to you, you’ll utilize your time much more efficiently.

Make Your Plans Matter

Do more than shallow planning. Shallow daily plans consist of a simple list of the immediate pressures in front of you: Clean the kitchen, Finish the quarterly sales report, Organize the inbox. Although each of the things on this shallow list is important, it will need to be done again soon, and it may have little to do with your long-term aspirations. When you base your plans on the people, values, and goals that matter most, you’ll be sure to work on something truly meaningful each day. That’s when the magic happens!

So what’s been lingering in the back of your mind that you’ve always wanted to do? Why not open your planner and decide today what your first step toward that goal should be, and then determine to be proactive?

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