From Concern to Influence – Stephen Covey 101

November 2nd, 2010   •   1 comment   


7 Habits of Highly Effective People for Ah Bengs (Courtesy of Wayangtimes.com)

One of the oldest lessons from the incomparable 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is to be proactive.

Now what does being proactive mean?

Proactive vs Reactive People

Well, here’s what Covey’s website has to say about proactiveness and its antithesis, which is being reactive.

“Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” – Stephen Covey

In other words, proactive folks don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know that they are responsible for and choose their behavior.

Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment.

They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather.

While proactive people focus their energies and attention on the things which they can change for the better – what Covey called their Circle of Influence – reactive people channel their worries on things which they have absolutely no control over (Circle of Concern).

This metaphor is diagrammatically represented below.


Being proactive means increasing your circle of influence (source)

Don’t Just React – Act!

On a practical day-to-day basis, how do we live proactively instead of reactively?

For a start, be courageous in stepping forth to correct what you feel are wrongfully done. Complaining and whining incessantly about your country, your company, your boss, or your colleagues doesn’t change anything. What you should do instead is to take useful steps forward that can improve things.

For example, if you are pissed that there is somebody who is constantly badmouthing you in the office, go and approach him or her and talk it out (nicely at first).

Similarly, if you see somebody littering on the floor or smoking in a non-smoking zone, take the step to remind them (tactfully and courteously) that what they’re doing is anti-social and inconsiderate. This could be way better than trying to public shame them with your smartphone shooting a video in the corner.

Like cancerous cells in your body, you cannot afford to let these feelings fester – get rid of them as soon as you can.

Surround yourself with positive folks

The next thing you can do is to surround yourself with positive folks in a can-do environment.

There are certain people who have a toxic and perpetually negative personality. These are the moaners groaners who always choose to state that the glass is half empty rather than half-full. Avoid them at all costs.

For sure there is a time and place for us to speak out against what is wrong about an organisation, a family member, or even a restaurant. After all, we live in a flawed world, and humanity’s flesh is often week.

However, we should do it in the right constructive rather than destructive spirit.Focusing on the negatives all the time will lead to an inevitable downward spiral which is neither productive nor useful in the long term.

Invest in doing good

You may also want to embrace a hobby or a cause where you have greater control over the eventual outcome.

Like anybody else who works for a living, there is a limit to what I can do in the office although I try to do what I can to expand my sphere of influence.

However, I know that on this electronic canvas, I can influence others – hopefully in a beneficial fashion – and achieve some form of self actualisation through the power of positive influence.

Similarly, you may wish to invest your time and energies in positive hobbies that can enrich you spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Even better if what you do can add value to the lives of others.

What tips do you have on living a proactive, engaged and influential life?

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One comment

  1. posted on Nov 03, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    Stephen Covey’s book has a huge influence on me. It shaped my career life. Nicely put, on proactiveness (and I like the Ah Beng version too!). I wish that more people are “taught” about being proactive in the course of our education.

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