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Habit 1 — Be Proactive

Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.” Victor Frankl

To be proactive means to take responsibility and control of your own life. The word “responsibility” literally means “the ability to respond,” and proactive people will choose their response to situations and people wisely. They take responsibility for their lives and know that the effectiveness of their lives is a result of their own actions and choices.

Reactive people, on the other hand, blame other people and circumstances for their lives. They don’t take the time to choose their response and instead are driven by their daily moods and fleeting feelings. Proactive people will create an environment that serves them, whereas reactive people will blame their environment for anything that doesn’t serve them. They are at the mercy and control of external conditions, whereas proactive people are driven by their own internal conditions, which they create to serve them to live a fully effective life.

Two great quotes from the book highlight the differences well: In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can hurt you without your consent,” and in the words of Gandhi, “They cannot take our self respect if we don’t give it to them.”

When a person can truly see that their life is a result of their choices, they then empower themself to make choices that serve them. As Covey says so well, “It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us—our most difficult experiences forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future as well as inspire others to do so as well.”

In summary, habit 1, to be proactive, says that you are in charge of your own life: You create it, or you can live reactively and have other people and circumstances create it for you.

Actions to take