I studied Habit 1: Being Proactive from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People back in 2002. And I kicked myself for not just being an idiot all along but for not reading that book in the five years that I’ve had it right in front of me!
And “Being Proactive” has been one of the most profound learnings of my life. Considering my reactive upbringing, the realization that I can choose how to respond to the situation and thus have more control (often what reactive people want) was empowering.
Of course, I haven’t transformed into a monk or something. Heck, I still react to petty things on (almost) a daily basis. But I’m aware. And that’s the key. Being aware of your emotions allows you to creatively channelize your energy into something nurturing. It helps you to keep your ego in check and reason.
I’ve tried meditating to strengthen this habit but I’ve found “minding” my language to be more effective. I don’t know why that works for me. Perhaps because when I meditate my monkey mind distracts me, whereas it’s easier for me to “tell myself” to be conscious of the words that I’m using. To each, his/her own.
But in my opinion, minding your language is easier to achieve (because it’s you and the language that you use) than monitoring your circles of concern and influence* (because it’s hard to keep a tab on the type of people you interact with all the time) and meditating (you and the monkey inside your head — it’s very, very, very hard!).
Some reactive phrases to look out for:
- There’s nothing I can do.
- That’s just the way I am.
- He makes me so mad.
- They won’t allow that.
- I have to do that.
- I can’t.
- I must.
- If only.
Whenever you catch yourself using one of these reactive phrases, replace it with a proactive one:
- Let’s look at our alternatives.
- I can choose a different approach.
- I control how I respond to this.
- I choose.
- I prefer.
- I will.
While I appreciate who I am, I cannot let that be in the way of my growth. And I choose to be proactive. Because that sets the baseline for your personal growth.
PS: Download this cool book summary of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the good folks at HubSpot!