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Be Proactive

By Reverend Molly Cameron

20 years ago I went to work for a wonderful company called Covey Leadership Center in Provo, Utah. It was founded by Dr. Stephen R. Covey at the time when his book became a huge hit and changed the lives of many people. The book is called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

At the same time I went to work for Dr. Covey I discovered the Science of Mind philosophy. So I was learning these two philosophies concurrently, and they are highly complementary and work very well together. Everything we teach here at the Center is about training our minds in order to perceive a deeper spiritual reality, and cultivating these habits is a great way to create a pathway for our spiritual expression.

Habit 1: Be Proactive.

Dr. Covey was inspired by the work of Viktor Frankl. It’s hard to imagine much good coming from the holocaust; however, Frankl discovered something about himself that is at the heart of what separates us from our animal nature, and he did so while surviving in a Nazi death camp. He was a Jewish psychiatrist, and he was in the direst of circumstances. 

One day, naked and alone in a small room, he began to become aware of what he later called “the last of the human freedoms” – the freedom his Nazi captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Viktor Frankly himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.

This is the gift of being that makes us human. We have the power to choose our response to conditions. Another gift we’re given as humans is imagination – the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality. Right?  That’s what we teach here — we create a mental equivalent of what we want in our imagination, and the Law of Attraction makes it so. But how many times has our best creative intention been thwarted by our reaction to something happening to us?

Let’s use money as an example.

Say you want to be completely out of debt, so you go to a practitioner for spiritual mind treatment and you leave feeling great. You have the power to create greater wealth streams; you have the discipline to pay off your higher interest loans first, and you know that it’s already accomplished on the mental and spiritual planes.

So what happens? You go out to the parking lot and your car won’t start, and you have to have it towed, and it’s going to cost $500 to get it fixed.

Do you react, or do you respond? 

What’s the difference?

Well, reacting means just what it says. We act according to how we’ve always acted when something happens that costs us money. “Man, I just can’t get a break!” “Treatment doesn’t work for me!” “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all!” “Why does God hate me?”  Ever used that one? 

When we are reactive even the weather affects us adversely. We wake up to rain, and react accordingly.

No let’s look at Habit 1: Be Proactive. What does a proactive response to this same happening look like? You just got a great prayer from a practitioner, you’re feeling good about your financial well-being, and you go out to the parking lot, and your car won’t start, you get it towed, and get an estimate for $500 in repairs. You can feel it starting – “Waaah!” But then, in that moment, you mentally call a halt and remember that this is a critical moment in your life. It’s the point of choice. You know how time stretches in certain moments, like during accidents? Well, you can stretch time right here too. The moment something happens, you can do this. Step aside and look to see what’s happening. 

You just made a new pact with the Universe when you asked that practitioner to pray with you about your finances. You said YES to greater wealth, YES to releasing yourself from debt, and YES to letting Spirit support you in this. Are you going to honor that pact, or the old one that says “I just can’t seem to get ahead!”  

Viktor Frankl learned how to allow the deepest, most real part of himself to thrive during unimaginable deprivation and horror. He used his imagination to create a pact with the Universe — he projected himself into a mental future where he was teaching his students about the lessons he was learning right there in that death camp. They could take everything away from him, but this, they could not take away. Nothing external can ever take away these gifts of our humanity: Self-awareness, the ability to see ourselves in whatever situation we are in; conscience, the innate knowledge of what’s in harmony with God and what’s not; and independent will, the ability to choose our response to any situation.

So that’s what’s at the heart of Habit 1: Be Proactive. We take response-ability for our lives, and we cultivate the mental muscle to stop in any given moment, take a deep look at the situation we’re in, and make an informed choice as to how we respond. Wow. That’s grown-up stuff, isn’t it?  

Covey calls it the ability to subordinate an impulse to a value. See, in our imaginary scenario about the car breaking down, you’ve just created a value for yourself. You worked with a practitioner to create the value of financial freedom for yourself. Yet, in the circumstance of a car breakdown, the impulse is to revert to old patterns your brain set up to explain things, based on its best interpretation of events. That’s our animal nature speaking. But to be able to stop and ask ourselves, “what do I value here?” and choose toward that — now that’s the power of being human.

In the case of the car breakdown, you have the choice of reacting: “See? It’s never going to change for me.” Or responding: “I am in partnership with Spirit here, and I’ve just made a pact to accept financial freedom. I choose to trust that this is not a setback, but an opportunity to reaffirm what I have chosen to believe about myself. I am worthy of financial freedom, I deserve financial freedom, and this will not stand in my way.”

Your character, your basic identity, is intact. You have just made a huge stride in your ability to handle difficult situations with ease.

The second thing Dr. Covey teaches us in Habit 1: Be Proactive is the practical application of Habit 1: and it’s called the Circle of Concern. Now imagine that all around you in the known world are areas that you are concerned about. Some of them you have personal involvement with, such as your children’s schools or your health, and other things concern you because they belong to the wider world – the economy, the tension in the Middle East, for example. These are all part of wide circle of concern and each of us are in the center of our very own circle of concern.

As we look at all the things that live inside this circle, we can begin to make the distinction between the things that we have some control over, and the things we have no control over. So imagine, if you will, that inside this great big circle of concern that you have, there is a small circle inside of it that we could call your circle of influence. All of the things that you are concerned about in your world, AND that you actually have some influence on, belong inside this smaller circle. 

Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.

Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink. 

Dr. Covey tells the story about one of his boys as a child was awkward and immature, socially embarrassing, and got made fun of a lot. It concerned the parents deeply and they wanted to help the boy, so they started on a campaign to psych him up, using positive mental attitude techniques. At his softball games they’d cheer “Come on, son, you can do it!  We know you can!” and when he’d do a little better, they’d reinforce it: “You did good, son – keep it up.”

When his brothers or peers teased him the parents would reprimand them — “leave him alone. Get off his back. He’s just learning.” Nothing they did seemed to help the boy. They did everything they could think of to support him, but could make no progress.

At the time, Dr. Covey was studying how deeply imbedded our perceptions are, and was teaching in his leadership series how important it is to examine the lens we through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, because the lens itself shapes how we experience the world.

So he and his wife Sandra began examining the lens through which they viewed this child they so wanted to help. And when they were deeply honest about it, the realized that they viewed him as basically inadequate, somehow “behind” the others. So no matter how much they cheered him on, the unspoken communication to the boy was this: You aren’t capable. You have to be protected.” They found they had a lot more invested in their image of themselves as good, caring parents than they were for the boy’s welfare. 

What a shift taking response-ability can make in our lives! The Coveys then had something they could work with, and as they consciously changed the way they viewed their son, from incapable to capable, from having to be protected, to having everything he needed to be successful, they watched the boy change, right before their very eyes. 

That’s working in our Circle of Influence. That’s facing reality. That’s being proactive.

Proactive people are not pushy or overly aggressive – proactive people are smart, value-driven, and know what’s needed in a given situation. The proactive approach is inside-out; to be different, and by being different, to effect positive change in what’s out there.

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