This first habit is one that focuses entirely on the self. Because we, as humans, are the only creature who have the ability to actually think about our very thought processes (aka “self-awareness), we are therefore able to see how we view ourselves and others. This ability allows us to act, rather than merely being acted upon. One important lesson that I really got from this habit was that we have the freedom, or the power, to choose how we respond to any given stimulus (occurrence/situation/event.) Unlike animals, we in fact have a step in between “the stimulus” and “our response.” Right in the middle, we have the ability to decide within ourselves how everything around us is going to affect us. Covey gives the story of Viktor Frankl during the Holocaust, which is an incredibly illustrative story.
This was really difficult, yet amazing, for me to hear. “As humans, we are truly responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.”
Responsibility–“response-ability”=the ability to choose your response!
Most of us, including myself admittedly, are usually reactive when it comes to making a choice as to whether or not we will let outside conditions affect us. Reactive people let things such as bad weather or negative people/media control them.
The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values–carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.
Therefore, until each of us truly accepts the fact that we are where we are today because of the choices we made in the past, we are not able to decide to choose otherwise. Take responsibility for letting others affect you. It is not what happens to us that affects us, but it is instead how we react. It is the major events, both amazing and devastating, that force us to actually decide how to respond, and then it is with that response that we shape ourselves. So don’t just say that “if only I HAVE more money, then I will be happy.” BE HAPPY. Focusing on being, rather than having. Take control over your feelings and responses, be proactive.