Habit 1: Be Proactive

ByMani Prithiviraj

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 In the previous article, we reviewed Covey’s 7 Habits of Effective people. We understood  how alignment of actions with natural principles, balance of production and production capacity are important. In this post, we will look at the first habit which is “Be Proactive”. This is one of the habits associated with the self.

            Covey writes that a unique human endowment is “Self Awareness”. This is something that other life forms in the world do not possess. Some examples of Self Awareness are: self evaluation, learning from our experiences and learning from experiences of others. We have the ability not only to be trained, but also choose a training that suits us or even create a training.

            The term ‘proactivity’ is used a lot by modern organizations as a buzz word. While it refers mainly to taking the initiative, Covey explains that it goes well beyond that. According to him, proactivity also means that we are responsible for our lives and that our behavior is a function of our decisions and not conditions. We do not blame circumstances or others for problems that we face.

            I work in the area of customer support and one of the areas we focus on is proactive support. What is it that is different in proactive support? A few differentiators are:

  • In addition to resolving issues customers come to us for, we reach out to customers to see how they are doing and see if they need any help via phone, emails or visits.
  • Whenever a new release of a software is out, we explain new features that can be beneficial to the customers (rather than wait for the customers to ask us).
  • We offer to review existing processes to see if they can be improved to enhance productivity.

We see that the proactive support model give us a much higher probability of improving customer satisfaction, increasing their success and  encourage our customers to give us more business. It also improves the quality of our products, since we use feedback from the field and pass it on to the developers who work on enhancing the product.

We are all subject to Stimuli from the outside. Covey says that between Stimuli and Response, we have the ability to choose. A proactive person thinks and chooses an appropriate response to the stimulus he or she receives.  For example, one of our customers might come to us with a very harsh criticism. Now while the criticism might lack professionalism, the basis for the criticism may be justified. A proactive approach to the situation is to carefully analyze the problem in hand and focus on getting a solution for the problem.

During India’s Independence Struggle, Mahatma Gandhi remarked that “They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them”. The reason our feelings get hurt is not because of what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us.

As human beings we have several concerns in life. Concerns can be grouped into two areas as described by Covey. The inner circle in the figure below refers to things that are under our control. The outer circle describes things that are not directly within our control (e.g. the Weather, global economy)

 

Proactive people are focused mainly on the circle of influence. This approach helps in slowly expanding our circle of influence. On the other hand reactive people are more focused on the circle of concern.

Some of Covey’s suggestions for expanding our circle of influence are:

  • Being a better listener
  • Being a better spouse or family member
  • Being a better student and employee
  • Being a better manager.
  • Being a better teacher.

It is not that we completely ignore the circle of concern. We still need to think about it, but not let it be the major part of focus. We always have the choice of choosing an action. However, the outcome of our action is always aligned with natural principles. For example, we may choose not to wear our seat belt while travelling. However, if the vehicle comes to a sudden and  un-expected stop, we may get thrown, since that is a natural consequence the laws of physics.

According to Covey, the heart of the circle of influence is our ability to make and keep commitments and promises.  The commitments we make to ourselves and others and our ability to keep them is the clearest manifestation of our proactivity.

Hope you enjoyed this post. In the next post, we will look at the 2nd habit which is “Begin with the End in mind”.

Reference: 25th Anniversary Edition “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

This is the fourth post for #MyFriendAlexa by @Blogchatter. I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa and #Blogchatter.

About the author

Mani Prithiviraj author

Mani Prithiviraj has a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from BITS, Pilani and a Master's and Doctorate in Mechanical engineering from  Texas A&M University, College Station, USA. He is currently Director of Customer Success at Siemens Industry Software Computational Dynamics India Pvt Ltd, Bengaluru, India. He can be found here.

4 Comments so far

giniaPosted on9:25 pm - Sep 27, 2019

Being proactive is so very important in todays day and age of procrastination. Really liked your article. Loved the bit about self respect and our reaction to situations.

simi spPosted on7:30 pm - Sep 29, 2019

the post is really going to help me going to bookmark this ty for sharing…

Mayura AmarkantPosted on12:14 am - Sep 30, 2019

Really interesting post! I am so glad that there are bloggers who write exactly like writers of HBR…reviewing a great book like 7 habits in such depth is a rare occurrence among today’s bloggers.
really happy to come across your blog…some fab content here. Keep writing such informative posts. #MyFriendAlexa #DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter

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