Dissecting The 7 Habits by Stephen R. Covey: Habit #1 ‘Being Proactive’

2 min


Two people can see the same thing and yet have different perspectives about it. This is the starting point of Stephen Covey’s book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ The purpose of understanding this is essentially to make the reader believe in the power of paradigm shifts, if they don’t already. Only by believing that your perspective can change (and that different perspectives exist) will you be able to change your mental experience and perceptions.

After understanding this key concept, Covey introduces what he believes to be the most powerful habits one can practice to live effectively. Cactico brings you an analysis of each of the 7 habits as well as our own thoughts on them in order to help solidify their meaning further.

A different perspective on free will

Many things in the world are reactive, meaning they are constantly reacting to stimulus outside their control. Humans have a wonderful ability to ‘escape’ the reactionary world and to control, to a certain extent, their lives. However, many things are outside the control of humans (in fact, most things are out of our control). As we advance (scientifically, technologically…etc) as a species, our control over the world around us expands as well. Some people call this ability to influence our surroundings ‘power’.

But it is better to look at this ability as a gift.

The reason is simple, we didn’t choose to have this ability. The fact that we influence the world around us is a direct reaction to having the ability to control things (or power) given to us. In other words, we were given ‘free will’ through evolution. Many argue against free will, so we can call it simply ‘will’ or ‘willpower’ or ‘how much someone/something can influence the world around them.’ We can also consider exercising this ‘will’ as being proactive.

The Circles

Stephen Covey talks about 2 different circles, the Circle of Concern & the Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern contains within it everything that concerns us, for example, our relationships, objects of desire, money issues…etc. Anything that you worry about or care about exists in the Circle of Concern. But not everything within it can be controlled.


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Within this circle is the Circle of Influence, it encompasses everything within the Circle of Concern that can be affected by us taking action. What people percieve as ‘gaining power’ is simply the expansion of the Circle of Influence, effectively allowing people to take action on more things that concern them.

Being Proactive

To be proactive is to focus on things that are encompassed by both circles. If you are worried about your teeth(concern) and have the ability to visit a dentist(influence), you can be proactive and take action on what concerns you. If you are angry about poverty in your country, but you barely have enough to feed yourself, it’s better to focus on feeding yourself because that is all you can do, for now. Worrying about things you can’t control is being reactive and gets you nowhere. Working on what you can expands your Circle of Influence, which in turns allows you to do more and affect things that you care about.

Look for possibilities, not roadblocks.

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