In his global best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Dr. Stephen R. Covey identifies “Be Proactive” as the first of the 7 habits of effectiveness. He goes on to model the ideal of proactivity by identifying the classic stimulus/response paradigm in a simple diagram. Just to review – the stimulus is something that happens to us (usually occurring in the environment AROUND us) and the response is something that happens because of us (usually rooted in our own values, beliefs and goals).
Dr. Covey reminds us that if there is no “space”, in other words, no thought, consideration or intention between the stimulus/what happens to us and the response/what we do with that stimulus, that we are simply the products of our environment and the stimuli it presents. In other words, we are captive to our circumstances.
Think of how powerful and deliberate, how mature and considered, our responses would be to any stimulus if we had clearly defined for ourselves, what we valued, what we believed and what our goals and aspirations were. Then we would have a powerful mental construct to manage Dr. Covey’s “space”.
When presented with some sort of stimulus – let’s say, an angry customer – rather than getting caught up in their anger and wanting to “fight” or “flee” by arguing back or hanging up we might do the following. What if we reminded ourselves of our value of kindness, our belief that customers are foundational to our business success and our goal to grow our online business. Would that, perhaps, change how we responded? In other words, would the ideas of kindness, customer and growth, change how we reacted? Would that more considered and careful reaction become proactive? And, to the message of the 7 Habits, wouldn’t that be a powerful way to achieve the outcome of Be[ing] proactive?
Knowing my values, managing my beliefs and pursuing my goals are the roots of meaning. Meaning can infuse all areas of life, including how I respond to the less than ideal stimuli I confront every day. Proactivity is born out of a clear idea and commitment to meaning based living – my values, my beliefs, my goals. Meaning closes the proactivity “gap” by closing the 3 gaps found in better living my values, managing my beliefs and pursuing my goals. 3 Gaps and 7 Habits – not a bad fit.