In this episode of The Collective Cast we continue our discussion of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This episode focuses on the first habit, Be Proactive.
What does it mean to be proactive? Who is to blame for my "automatic" responses to life? What are the circles of influence and concern and how can I expand the correct one? Lastly, how in the world do I even start to become proactive?
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
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collective cast number three seven habits i'm in control your tune to the collective cast agents of the collective strive to fight adapt and grow whether facing the evils of the world or those within ourselves we support one another and leave nobody behind and now here's your host of the collective cast the cryptic chameleon hello fellow agents of the collective i am chris also known as the cryptic comedian thank you again for joining me along in my journey and yours to fight adapt and grow i hope that this transmission is finding you well today we are continuing the journey through the seven habits of highly effective people and today is going to focus a lot on well who's in control of my life am i in control or is everyone else in control or is everything else in control are my emotions in control what has control over who i am and how i act so the first part of this is to think about our inner reflection versus our outer reflection where do we get who we are now the the book starts off by talking about the fact that as human beings we're the only ones that could sit there and think about what we're feeling we're not just instinctual but we we have the ability to think about well who am i and how do i feel in this moment and what does that mean for me we are the only creatures that can really think to the level of the famous psychological saying and i don't know who says it said it or philosophical saying i think therefore i am we're the only ones on this planet that can come up with thoughts like that but the problem is is that we oftentimes at least i know i do trade that that inner thought process or that inner determination for things external from us and the problem is is that things external from us don't always reflect the truth now granted i don't always reflect the true self inside of myself either but it's a lot easier to deal with the mirror inside of myself that i have control over versus dealing with the mirror that is outside of my head myself because a mirror outside of ourselves in terms of personality and actions always is a way of deflecting responsibility from ourselves and it's always a false image in some way a lot of times many of us at least i know for myself i have determined who i am not based upon who i think i am but who i think i should be that's been a huge problem in my life going all the way back you know who who do others tell me that i am and then i start to become that person and then that takes the power away from me i don't have the or i don't feel rather like i have the same choices now because of that and these tie into kind of three different determinisms or fallacies that the book brings up the first is genetic determinism i'm i'm this way because of the dna in my family so for example uh i know that on multiple sides of my family there have been issues with alcoholism or obsessive behaviors therefore i'm going to be that way because everybody in my family or people in the history of my family have been that way it's just it's just the way that things are going to be so you notice first off i'm blaming something i could potentially have an issue with on not my actions or my choices but on the fact that my family has had a history of those problems there's psychic determinism psychic determinism is i act this way because of the things that happened to me in childhood because of the way i was brought up because it's the way that my parents taught me to be well once again that's deflecting my responsibility yes i had things happen in childhood yes i was brought up a certain way and uh to be honest i often went away against that way of being brought up we could talk about displaying versus telling how to behave but that's that's again still psychic determinism i am the way i am because of the situations i grew up in and don't get me wrong childhood trauma and childhood perceptions of things around us do help to determine the way that we act and behave but that doesn't mean that we don't have or i don't have control over my behavior i like to think that i don't but it turns out guess what i do the third the third is environmental determinism i act the way that i act because of people around me so uh i want my boss to think that i'm you know the best person in the world or i need to be a certain way because of my spouse i need to be a certain way because of the friends that i'm in the circle of friends that i have well if i have to change who i am for any of those people then those people might not be the best people to have in my life if they can't accept me for who i am i have the choice to do that and when i was younger i chose a lot to be the type of person that i thought my friends would like at least on the surface and i chose to do a lot of things for people based upon what i thought they wanted me to be rather than who i truly was so we have genetic determinism psychic determinism and environmental determinism all these things are excuses and are false mirrors of who we actually are who i actually am in reality i control how i act and this is something hard to accept because i have to turn around and say to myself all of the bad negative things i've done in the past i actually chose to do those things in some fashion or another and it's really really hard to think about that not only that but when i've tried and i've come to this realization in the past but whenever i've tried to pick things up and to say to myself i'm going to be in control i oftentimes end up sliding back and not being in control like i should the the big thing that we tend to be taught or tend to believe or at least i tended to believe is that there's always a stimulus and then a response and the response is something outside of our control for the most part you know if i feel angry well i'm going to act angry because that's the response that the stimulus of anger causes i'm going to you know you know lash out if i feel threatened i'm going to act angry or i'm going to puff up and like make myself look bigger than i actually am in some way either emotionally or with language whatever that is if i feel insecure i'm going to choose to act on that insecurity in an in an emotional way rather than to actually handle it that's the stimulus response model but the problem is it's not entirely accurate we're saying or i'm saying that oh well because there's this stimulus i will always respond this way and that's not always true in fact that's not true at all yes if i touch an electrical wire i'm automatically going to let go of that live electrical wire when i get zapped that's that's not a conscious choice that's a you know bodily response but when i'm feeling angry i can choose to do some breathing work i can choose to walk away from the situation i can choose to even fake it and say well i'm feeling angry but i'm going to act in a different way or i can choose to think differently about the situation these are all choices that i could make so the reality is not stimulus and response the reality is stimulus choice response but many times i overlook that choice piece and just go from a to b rather than from a to b to c or rather i go from a to c and skip b so this brings up the topic of being proactive versus being reactive reactive is exactly what i just mentioned stimulus response something happens to me and i immediately respond i don't exercise any control in the situation being proactive means that i control my responses to both external and internal stimulus internal stimulus being emotion i don't have to react a certain way when i'm afraid or threatened or insecure but i tended to always have acted a certain way in the past and i've tended to be extremely controlling with the relationships that i've had in the past in order to make sure that i have that comfort that i need so that i don't feel insecure so that i don't have to be vulnerable that's a problem now was i aware that i was making that choice maybe i wasn't but i still was making that choice our awareness of our actions don't necessarily mean that we didn't choose to do them so i still chose to be a certain way even if i wasn't being conscious of that choice it was still a choice i was making and again that's hard to accept because i could easily fall back on the well i act this way because of you know this that and the other i could easily deflect it but the truth is i acted certain ways because i chose to act those ways yes there are reasons behind those choices some of them very deep and painful reasons but i still chose to do them to be proactive means i don't blame anyone else for my choices or actions how often do we do that oh well why are you yelling at me well because uh you know this person did this or because uh i'm angry at this or because this that and the other um well i'm actually yelling at you because of you you did this to me uh no i'm yelling because i'm choosing to yell that doesn't sound as good does it but it's the truth the other thing that i should be doing and i don't always because i'm still trying to develop these things in myself is to choose based upon values not based upon feeling so if i was truly a compassionate person to the core of my deep-seated character then i would always or at least 99 percent of the time choose the compassionate response but i don't there are plenty of times where somebody says oh well you know this is really upsetting me and i go oh yeah that's nice or i'm sorry to hear that let me move on and tell you about me oh so choosing based on value is not based on feeling again it's gonna take a lot of practice it's going to take a lot of work to get there but if i don't choose to control my responses and i blame other people for my choices or actions and i don't choose based upon values but choose based upon how i'm feeling in the moment then i am making another choice i'm choosing to let everything else be in control of me i'm choosing to let my feelings my upbringing my co-workers my friends my situation control me i'm not in control but i'm choosing to abdicate that control i'm choosing to give up that control that's a scary thought that i have chosen actively to give up control in my life and to be reactive and that in some cases i still choose that in fact in many cases i still choose that because it takes practice and to develop the skill of always being in a place of making a choice rather than to react this is what mindfulness strategies and techniques are about it's about feeling your emotions but not necessarily reacting to them and i found that it has helped but i still have a long way to go one of the things i thought of when thinking about this concept of reactivity versus proactivity is a quote from a song by rush that that quote is called free or that's not the quote but the song is called free will and there's a line in the song if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice so if you choose or i choose to just react i've made the choice just to react i've made the choice not to think i've made the choice not to be true to myself i've made the choice to run away from the situation and let it control me wow that is a big deal i wonder how often i make that choice day in and day out it's probably a lot and it's something that i think a lot of us struggle with now that's my opinion you may be listening to this and saying ah i'm fine with this if so i'm happy for you i'm sharing my struggle i know i have issues with this the other thing about being reactive versus being proactive is that it impacts the very language and thought that we tend to use so for example i might have a struggle with somebody at work i might have struggles getting along with somebody or with the way that they do things and i have a choice to make i could choose to sit there and to bemoan my situation this person is such a jerk this person is this this is that i could sit there and my co-workers might even agree with me oh yeah they're they're totally this they're totally that but here's the reality i can control how i react to the person so i can choose to work in a positive way with them and not to talk negatively about them i can choose not to build up the negative images of that person but to look at the positive things that they do and try to help others to see those positive things and that's that's the difference in internal language or internal thought and external language how many times do i say something like i can't do this or this is just who i am well the reality is it's not i can't it's i choose so i choose this over that so it's not that i can't go swimming in ice water like in an icy lake it's that i choose not to go swimming in an icy lake although i would like to try it at some point this is just who i am oh that i i cannot tell you how many times i've used this oh don't that's just the way it is or that's just the way i am you know that's who i am now no i can choose a different way would be the proactive way of thinking so paying attention to my language day in and day out and listening for those triggers listening for the times that i'm blaming other things for the way i'm acting or i'm blaming myself like saying oh well this is just how it is or this is just how i am sorry you're just going to have to deal with it it's abdicating my responsibility it's it's getting rid of my control it's saying i don't want that control i want to be reactive instead of proactive and it's extremely hard if i think if i took the time to think about this even for one day i'm probably going to get very very frustrated with myself because i know i do this all the time because i know that this is a big issue with me this is probably why this is the first of the seven habits which is to be proactive it's the first of the seven habits because if i can't be proactive if i cannot shift my mindset and world view from a reactive to a proactive one then i can't get anything else done i'm always going to be at the whims of my emotions i'm always going to be at the whims of other people's perceptions and what i think that they think of me and i'm always going to be blaming things like my childhood or my upbringing or trauma in my life for my actions but the reality is is that i'm in control of my actions i just like deflecting blame because it makes me feel better the reality is that i do choose my actions even if i choose not to choose them there are actually two different circles that the seven habits book lays out for us that we have in all of our lives that that we have the first is called the circle of concern think of it this way imagine everything that you get worried or concerned about so uh oh i'm worried about this political thing or oh i'm worried about at this time uh in our world i'm worried about how other people are doing things about kovid i'm worried about how people are going to treat me online on twitter uh i'm concerned about this i'm concerned about that i have all these different concerns we actually i know i tend to have a lot of concerns some of them i don't have any control over there in the future which brings me to the second point i also have a circle of influence what i can actually do something about so let's say i am worried about something in the future i'm worried i won't have enough money to save for uh some project or something well i can do something about that i can start to save money for that project or i can sell something i don't need anymore on craigslist or ebay i can choose to do something about that and empower myself like i was saying about the person at work that i might not get along with i can choose to try to interact better with that person i can choose to up play their contributions to the business i can choose to not participate in you know negative talk about that person i can make that choice so that's in my circle of influence now can i control that other person no i can't i can't change that person's behaviors but i can change how i see that person or how i react to that person and i can also change or help to change perhaps how other people see that person i can do that that's in my circle of influence the goal in life is to spend less time in the circle of concern and more time in the circle of influence and in fact our goal in life is to expand our circle of influence over time how do i expand my circle of influence well i'll use work as an example because it's the easiest one well i keep my promises i get my stuff in on time i provide above and beyond what's expected of me and i take people's thoughts and emotions and read into what they're looking for without them actually saying it so that i'm always providing what they need without actually them stating line by line what they need do i do this in real life no i'm using this as an example but if i do that i'm going to expand my circle of influence why what the more that i do the more that i take on myself instead of blaming other people the more that i take on myself instead of running away from my feelings the more i take on myself and act upon the more other people will see those actions and know that i'm not reliant on them for my self-satisfaction i'm not reliant on the business to tell me what to do i can do it myself and in fact i could do it better than some people in the business might direct me to so my circle of influence expands if i'm always over delivering from my manager chances are my managers manager is going to notice that as well and then maybe that person will start coming to me and saying hey uh you know could you take a look at this you did such a good job for this person maybe you could take a look at this and again the goal isn't to do this for the recognition the goal is to do it for the you know for the sake of being proactive and having a certain sense of pride so the goal in life is to have a circle of influence that is either only slightly smaller than or equal to the circle of concern which is the stuff that maybe we can't do anything about i can't do anything about massive politics in our country at this point in time i can choose to write letters to my senators and representatives i can choose to if i really want to get political write blog posts and try to you know get a group of people together to rally for a certain cause i can choose to do those things so i can influence government if i want to but i don't it's too messy i don't want to be involved in that but i'm saying the circle of concern is where a lot of people including myself spend most of their time in and the problem is concern doesn't equal action it's like when there's a certain cause that's really uh big in the social zeitgeist so to speak that oh i'll change my profile picture or i'll add a certain tag to my profile on social media and that means i'm supporting that movement um no i'm not i didn't do anything all i did was signal that maybe i care about that thing i haven't done anything to help there's a big disconnect there between saying yeah i support this versus doing something to support it there's also a concept of have versus have or want versus being so if i only had this i would be happy if i had a if i have five thousand dollars i could do this if i was more patient i could do this if i was stronger i could do this if i was in shape i could do this if if if if i had this or i want this i want i want my life to be peaceful i want my life to be this well those are great statements but they're reactive they're passive it's not about what we have or want it's about who we are so i can be patient i am a good person i am proactive where i can be proactive i just need to work at it again very big difference in mindset here saying i have to have something or i need something versus i can be this or i am this again it plays into our day-to-day language it plays into my sense of self my sense of control well my sense of control of myself obviously i don't have control of others so having said all this having gone through the different language things having talked about the two circles being proactive versus being reactive and reflecting on ourselves rather than reflecting externally to get our validation how do i develop this that's the thing that i'm always looking for is okay you're telling me i have to be proactive how do i do that and the answer is by being proactive now the answer that the book gives and there's some there are several examples in there and recommended exercises i'm not going to go through them all because you should probably read the book yourself but the one thing that it recommends is to keep commitments both to yourself and to others so every time you make a commitment so today i said i'm going to write out the show notes for this episode and i'm going to get the episode recorded i i've done that i've kept my commitment to myself i'm going to do my exercise today that's a commitment that i that i'm making to myself i'm going to do my morning meditation well i did my morning meditation that is a commitment i'm keeping to myself i'm going to help with the divorce paperwork because i am responsible for the conclusion of the divorce proceedings you know um i am responsible for that i could passively sit back and say oh well um my my soon to be ex-spouse it's their responsibility to give me the paperwork or i could turn around and say no i'm going to go and find the paperwork i'm going to make sure that both of us have everything we need to push this along because i know that it's going to make her life better and i know it's going to make my life better in some ways but i can take that initiative i can take control over that so it's making commitments and keeping them both for ourselves and for others and that also builds up a certain value of consistency it builds up a certain value of honesty and integrity by doing that so the book recommends that for 30 days to make commitments and to keep them to when you say you're going to do something at work you do it within the time frame that you say although i did think to myself maybe set time frames you know i commit to getting this done by this time that way you're not overloading yourself because i know i tend to do that i'll say oh i could do this this this and this and then i'm like oh i can't get all this done but i never qualified that with when i'm going to get it done by so be a little bit specific even if it's with yourself i will get my exercise done today versus i will make sure that everything is ready for this podcast to be posted by next week but i will record it today makes sense so if you take nothing away from everything we talked about at least my primary takeaways are one in reality i have control over every single thing that i do two to make sure that i have control of every single thing that i do i am going to choose to keep my commitments which will help to build up that muscle that mental muscle to be able to do the things that i can control and to be able to expand my circle of influence rather than expanding my circle of concern that's the bottom line well that's what i got out of the first habit of be proactive out of the seven effective habits or seven habits of highly effective people if you got something out of this as well if if you're seeing some value from having heard my journey here and participating along with it i'd love to hear from you uh you can email collectivecastfeedback gmail.com you can find the twitter for this uh for for this at t collective cast that's t collectivecast on twitter and again i believe in the value for value model if you do truly get something valuable out of this then just show some value back give me a shout out leave a review on your favorite uh podcast player or podcast directory and if you really uh feel like it you know i always have a paypal link to support me directly because it does cost some time effort and money to put this together so anytime that you want to toss me some money by all means you can i'm not saying that you must or you should i'm saying if you do see that level of value and what i'm doing feel free to give value back by interacting with me on the discord or through monetary means whatever is comfortable for you in the meantime i want to thank you for joining me for this episode of the collective cast agents of the collective i want to thank you for joining me in my journey to fight adapt and grow i hope that i can be part of your journey as well and i'm thankful for you allowing me to be into your life and until the next episode i wish you all well take care you