Part 2 of a series about Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
The foundational habit that Stephen Covey begins with is ‘Be Proactive’. This simply means that you have the power to choose your attitude about the circumstances of your life. Your life is a product of your values and not your feelings, of your decisions not your conditions. You can take the initiative to make good things happen and you are the creative force in your life. As teens, many may think that we are too young or too hormonal or too immature or whatever. But you and I know that this is not the case.
*ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEENS*The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Personal Workbook
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
Adults and teens alike struggle to respond well when bad things happen to us. Mr. Covey explains that there is an important space between stimulus (what happens to us) and response (what we do about it). It is in this space that we choose how to respond to the current situation. Let me give you an example from my own life. We do not have tv in our house. (Can you believe it?) Which means that I didn’t get to watch the Grammy’s last night. (I really wanted to see Taylor perform because she is notoriously BAD in live performance and I was rooting for her to knock it out of the park for once.) Mom and I thought that we had found a place where we could watch it online. When the time came for the show to start we realized that it was one of those scam type of sites, and we would have to give them a credit card number in order to see anything. Well. There was no way my mom was giving them her credit card number, so I sat there in silence as I imagined every single other teenager in the entire country enjoying (or not) Taylor Swift’s Grammy performance…sigh. In that moment, I had a decision to make. I could stomp around and be mad at my mom, or be mad at the internet, or be mad at anything, and allow it to ruin my whole night, or I could get over it and realize that it was really not a big deal. Last night, I chose to get over it, and we went on to have a really nice evening. I will admit that I don’t always make that choice. But the bottom line is that my response to things not going my way is entirely MY responsibility. We have the capability to choose how we respond to every single thing that happens to us and we do not have to be controlled by our feelings.
Covey uses Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who was placed in the Nazi death camps because he was Jewish, as an example of someone who is proactive. During his time in the camps Dr. Frankl observed that some people acted like animals and some people acted like saints even though they were all in the exact same circumstance. His experience led him to later say the highest value of all is to choose your attitude in situations over which you have no control. We have the freedom to choose that response. By exercising his own will, he experienced true freedom as he alone could choose his response even in the midst of the horrific conditions of a concentration camp. Dr. Frankl wrote a book about his experiences Man’s Search For Meaning. And yes, I am aware of how ridiculous my Taylor Swift example sounds in comparison with Dr. Frankl’s story.
The next point that Mr. Covey makes regards our ‘circle of influence’. This covers the parts of our life that we can do something about – our health, family relationships, schoolwork, etc. But there is another larger circle and this is the ‘circle of concern’. These are things that you can do absolutely nothing about such as the weather, international events, decisions other people make, etc. Where do you focus as a proactive person? On the circle of influence. The reactive person focuses on the circle of concern – things they can do nothing about! That just doesn’t make sense does it? We should spend our time working on things that we can actually change. As we do that, we will experience the joy that come from taking responsibility for our own life.
As a teenager, there are many things in my circle of influence. The relationship that I choose to cultivate with family members, how I do in school, my progress as a rock climber, my level of involvement in my church. These are the things that are important to me and I do have control over these areas. The choices that I make are my responsibility and it is my goal to become more and more proactive in my life.
Now. Any ideas on where I can see a replay of that Taylor Swift Grammy performance? Anyone?
Check out the rest of the series!
#1 Be Proactive