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by Rev. Molly Cameron

Using the Power of Thought to Change Our World

All winter long there has been a plastic bag caught in the tree behind my house. I’ve watched it being tattered by the wind, rattling fiercely to get free.  Every week on garbage day I walk outside my house to see what’s flown out of the bins as the trucks dump them; plastic bottles, bags, Styrofoam, paper, caught in the bushes everywhere. Yesterday I looked out the back, and there was a new yellow bag caught in the tree. I looked out the front window and there was a bag caught in the bushes.  it’s a pretty familiar sight, isn’t it? These flimsy little bags that we get every day from the grocery.

What happens to them when they fly in the breeze?  They choke the drains and the waterways. And all waterways lead to the ocean. The final resting place for a lot of it is lining some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And moving out to sea to float in one of the five circulating currents, called gyres, of the oceans.

8-amazing-facts-about-our-oceans-7

It’s a powerful picture, isn’t it? A young boy picking through an ocean of garbage. In the gyre west of us, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s believed that this garbage, mostly plastics, covers an area of water the size of the United states. And every time I use a plastic bag or a plastic drink bottle, I run the risk of adding to that garbage patch.

And so I have to ask myself this: if I am a spiritual person striving to live in alignment with my creator, can I continue to contribute to this desecration of God’s creation?

I can’t ignore it anymore. As a community of Spirit, spiritual people who know the power of awareness and who have the ability to change our minds about what we do, who know that by changing our minds we change circumstances, we must become conscious of how our behavior affects the world around us. We can’t proclaim every Sunday to “support a world that works for everyone” when our behavior shouts the opposite.

Now I don’t think any of us carelessly throw garbage into the streets, or gleefully set plastics bags flying high over Columbus. But I do think that many of you, like me, have not been fully aware of the effect of our use of plastics. Coastal communities all over the world have begun curbing their use of plastics because they are sick and tired of having their beaches littered with trash that will stay for hundreds of years. Yes, it’s true that plastic garbage bags will break down after 10-20 years, but we are using them in this country at a rate of 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags, According to The Wall Street Journal. Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. About 2 million plastic bags are used every minute around the world (Earth Policy Institute). Are they being recycled? Yes, at a rate of about 30% a year. The other 70% is going into landfills, waterways and oceans.

Plastic bottles take 450 years to degrade. And we use approximately 2 million plastic bottles every minute. Some call it a plastic pandemic. And I have to ask, what are we leaving our children? As painful as it is, don’t you think it’s time we became more conscious of these facts and begin to do something about them?

Let’s go back to the Science of Mind philosophy and find a place to ground ourselves first. We believe that what mind has done, mind can undo. That means that whatever we as a human race have put in place, we the people can re-place. So becoming aware, increasing our consciousness of what’s happening and how we are contributing, is the first step toward change. The second step, as we all know, is “one person at a time, starting with me.” It always come back to the individual to adjust our thinking and behavior in order to make a positive impact on the world.

For years what’s been taking place in the world was all too painful for us to even look at because it provokes feelings of shame, dismay, frustration, and hopelessness. But here is what Ernest Holmes writes: In mental work, we must realize that there is One Infinite Mind, which is consciously directing our destiny. Declare every day: “No mistakes have been made, none are being made, and none can be made.” Declare: “There is One Supreme Intelligence which governs, guides and guards, tells me what to do, when to act and how to act.” Having done this in perfect faith, act with perfect assurance.

When a ship gets off course, the captain doesn’t hang his head in shame at having gotten off course. He doesn’t become hopeless and helpless – he recalibrates and sets a new course in the direction he wants to go.

Have we gotten off course with Mother Earth?  Yes. We have. Some say we are beyond hope. So let’s look for a moment at what’s beyond hope. Holmes tells us that “Hope is good; it is better than despair, but it is a subtle illusion and is an unconscious compromise.” Hope lets us continue to do what we do and hope for the best. It’s an illusion. What’s beyond hope is the absolute knowing that the actions we take today toward a world that works for everyone and everything has a profound effect for good in the world.

Scientists and explorers agree that limiting or eliminating our use of disposable plastics and increasing our use of biodegradable resources will be the best way to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.– National Geographic site

What’s beyond hope? The doing of things that move us in the direction we want to go, doing them with commitment, knowing that we are acting in alignment with the Divine Presence within as our guiding, guarding force.

Boyan Slat was 19 years old and loved to scuba dive. He was dismayed by what he saw in some of the most beautiful, remote parts of the ocean. He went directly beyond hope to action: this was unacceptable to him that our oceans are dying from garbage overdose. So he devised a way to actually clean up the garbage patches, using the circular power of the oceans themselves to collect and retrieve the plastics from the ocean and recycle them for a profit. He has a great youtube video on this – search for the Great Pacific Garbage patch and you’ll find some amazing videos on what’s actually being done for good in the world.

During the recent Move the Needle Seminars on Climate Action, a group of us got together to explore how we as a Community can make a difference. We came up with an ambitious project that will truly move the needle on climate action –  getting a ballot initiative to ban the use of plastic bags in Columbus grocery stores. We would be the first non-coastal city in the US to do this, and if we can make this happen, it would set an example to all cities everywhere to follow suit.

We’re working on getting reusable grocery bags made from recycled materials, made in the USA, with our logo on them to carry to the grocery and make the statement that we are a community that cares about the planet. In the meantime, we’ve come up with 10 Simple Commitments that we’ll make over the remaining months of 2016 to increase our consciousness about ways we can make a difference:

March: Give Up Plastic Bags

April: Give Up Plastic Bottles

May: Grow Something (non-GMO!)

June: Bring Your Own Utensils & Doggie Bags

July: Walk vs. Drive

August: Meatless Mondays

September: Buy Local: Shop Local

October: Research Your Candidate’s Position on the Environment

November: Prepare a Meal from Scratch

December: Give a Gift to the Earth
See you around Planet Earth, my friends

Think Win/Win

By Reverend Molly Cameron

Habit 4: Think Win/Win.

I’ve heard that phrase a lot; have you? It’s become a buzz word, Win/Win.

However, most of us are deeply scripted in Win/Lose. We are compared with others, tested against others, made to compete against others, in law suits against others, and these messages lead us to believe that we are not intrinsically worthy, valuable or loveable if we don’t come out the clear winner, and someone else the clear loser.

Win/Win, however, is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Making sure that all parties benefit from the actions we take. It’s based on the idea that there is plenty for everyone, of everything. That one person’s success is not another’s loss. We are not pitted against one another, but measured by our individual potential.

Dr. Covey tells the story of a business man who talked a great talk about Win/Win to his employees. He built them up as all winners and coached them about how great each of them were, but every Monday morning he’d draw the curtains open on his blackboard, where he had pictures of race horses lined up, and at the other end was a picture of a dream vacation in Bermuda. He had cut out little pictures of each of his employees, and pasted them on the horses’ heads. The winner of “the race” would receive that Bermuda vacation. He could talk win/win, but the reality of what he was telling them was if you win over all the others, you get the big prize. Win/Lose. It’s clear disincentive to Win/Win!

Some of us are programmed the other way – Lose/Win.

We bury our feelings constantly, and give over to others in order to be “nice”, or to avoid conflict, or keep from hurting another person’s feelings. I will lose so that you can win. Now sometimes this is helpful in relationship; when two people each have a different movie in mind for “date night.” One person might give over simply because they don’t have a lot at stake – what movie they see isn’t all that important to them. A fine time to choose Lose/Win.

You probably have known people who are scripted in Lose/Lose. Or married to them. No? Dr. Covey describes them as “determined, stubborn, and ego-invested.” I think about the story I heard about the origins of Two Buck Chuck – the wine that Trader Joe’s sold for $1.99 for so long. The story goes, and I don’t know if it’s real or not, that the owner was involved in a nasty divorce, and his wife contested the winery, which was her husband’s passion and produced very good wine. Because she was angry and bitter, she made a condition of the divorce that her husband’s wine, his pride and joy, could only be sold for under $2 a bottle. She was blinded by her bitterness, and did everything she could to hurt him. That’s Lose/Lose.

Another common alternative is simply to think WIN. People with that mentality don’t particularly want someone else to lose, that’s irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want. I think this is reflected sometimes in the form of capitalism we practice in our country; we justify taking people’s homes or land or whatever by shrugging and saying, “that’s just the way capitalism works!” That’s WIN mentality.

The sixth paradigm of human interaction is Win/Win or No Deal. No Deal means that we can’t find a solution that would benefit us both, and so we agree to disagree agreeably – No Deal. When that option is on the table, you can say, “I only want to go for Win/Win. I want to win and I want you to win. Let’s work toward that, and if we can’t get there, let’s agree that we won’t make a deal at all.”

Dr. Covey tells us that it’s important to realize that not all decisions need to be Win/Win, even when the Emotional Bank Account is high. Again, the key is the relationship and the amount of trust that’s built between two people. When you trust someone, you are more likely to trust the decisions they make when they don’t involve you.

Here’s a little assignment for you this week, if you choose. Identify three key relationships in your life. Think about the balance of your Emotional Bank Account with each of them. Then think about some simple ways you can make a deposit in those accounts. Then do one or two of those things. See how it feels! Is it enough to balance against what you withdraw?

Think Win/Win is really all about love, isn’t it? Dr. Covey writes, “when we truly love others without condition, without strings, we help them feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity, and integrity.” 

Put First Things First

By Reverend Molly Cameron

Habit 3, Put First Things First

Habit 3, Put First Things First gives us the third piece in what Dr. Covey calls the Personal Victory.

These first three habits, when practiced, help us establish an understanding that 1. We have responsibility for directing our own lives as we learn to Be Proactive; 2. We do that by creating the End in Mind or vision we wish to achieve.  Habit 3 helps us remember to prioritize what we need to do, in order to get where we want to go, without compromising that which is important to us. This Dr. Covey refers to as the Private Victory.

The first two habits are essential and prerequisite for Habit 3, Put First Things First. You have to know that you are in charge of your life and what you want to achieve, and only then can you Put First Things First. Put your time and attention on those things that that truly matter. 

Goethe wrote, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

We have so many choices in this world and it’s easy to get pulled off track, isn’t it? Often we find ourselves practicing procrastination, or diversion, and sometimes we get so caught up in the diversion that our dreams become so remote that we set them aside and never pursue what it is that will make us feel truly fulfilled. Habit 3 has at its center the principles of personal management to help us achieve what we want to achieve.

Habit 1: Be Proactive says, “You’re creative. You are in charge.” It’s based on the unique human endowments of imagination, conscience, independent will, and self-awareness. It empowers you to say, “That’s an unhealthy program I’ve been given from my childhood. I don’t like that script anymore, and I can change it.”

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind is the process of the mental creation based on our imagination; the ability to envision, to see potential, and to create with our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes.

Habit 3: Put First Things First involves the actual physical creation of what we have in mind. It’s the exercise of independent will toward becoming. It’s the day-in, day-out, moment-by-moment doing it. The practice of effective self-management.

Some days it feels like I’m trying to cram a month’s worth of doing into an 8-hour day. Or 12-hour day. Ever feel that way? Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that we just sit in front of the television rather than face the magnitude of what we need to do. All kinds of tasks are before us in a day; some of them are really, really important, and some of them are necessary, some we want to do and others not so much.

Habit 3: Put First Things First can help.

Who here has a personal mission statement?

My personal Mission is this: To further the evolution of the species through modeling enlightenment. My mission is to create a center for people, a place of community, love and sharing. It’s about lighting the way for many people, through classes and lectures, traveling and visiting through outreach, and includes international and intercultural exchange of ideas that begins right here in Columbus.

Well, that just might not be big enough, huh? It’s huge! And can be daunting!

Yet when I keep this mission as the End in Mind, some of the things for me to do to get there become very clear: do things that further enlighten me and help me shine my light! Right?

The big rocks for me might include daily meditation and contemplation. Daily visioning and spiritual mind treatment. Service to the wider community, and participation in intercultural associations and events. Mentoring by other ministers. All while keeping my body, mind and family and friends relationships healthy because they matter to me.

Your mission will be unique to who you are. It’s your personal constitution and can become the standard by which you operate. Then think about the way in which you will live out your mission, in keeping with your personal values. 

Here’s a question for you: What one thing could you do, that you aren’t doing now, that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? 

That’s a big rock. If we take a few minutes at the beginning of each week and again at the start of each day to prioritize our to-do lists so the very most important things are at the top, we begin to manage ourselves so that we are not only constantly moving in the direction of our dreams, we’re getting there in a way that honors our own values system. 

At the end of the month we’ll be contacting you about participating in a values survey for our own community. Tom Rausch is helping to conduct this survey internationally with all Centers for Spiritual Living, and we get to participate in such a way that they can measure the values of our Center individually. We’ll get lots of information on what you value, and how this community can serve those values. If you don’t receive monthly e-newsletters from me, put your email address on your envelope and put it in the offering baskets. We’ll make sure to send you the link next week. 

One of the most elusive parts of self-management is how we deal with time.time-quadrants1

The first one is called the 4 Quadrants of Time Management and it goes far beyond a task list and a pencil to check them off. It’s a way to look at the way you choose to spend your time.

You see 4 boxes within a large square. Along the left side are the words “Important” at the top left box, and “not important” at the lower left box.

Across the top are the words “urgent” above the top left box, and “not urgent” above the top right box. This means that the box at the top left represents those daily tasks which are both “urgent” and “important.” It includes Crises, Pressing Problems, Deadline-driven projects. Feel familiar? 

The lower left box represents Quadrant 3 tasks that are Urgent, but Not Important. The phone ringing, interruptions, reading junk mail, some meetings, and some pressing matters. 

The lower right hand box, Quadrant 4, is both “not urgent” and “not important”. This includes trivia, busy work, time wasters, pleasant activities such as watching television, surfing the net or facebook, and some mail and some calls. Not important and not urgent is reading the LL Bean catalog.

Now to the upper right hand corner, Quadrant 2, marked “Not Urgent” and “Important.” A friend just calling to say “hi” is not necessarily urgent, but it might be important if you value developing the friendship. Other things in this category are crisis prevention activities, relationship building, researching new opportunities, planning and recreation.

How many of us have spent time in this time management Quadrant 1? Doing all those urgent and important things we have to do? What is the result of living out of this quadrant? Stress, Burnout, Crisis management; you are Always putting out fires. It’s exhausting to live in Quad 1!

Quadrant 3, Urgent, but Not important. What is the outcome of living out of Quad 3? Everything has to be dealt with in the Short-term. We have no time for longer range plans. We are in Crisis management all the time, but the crises aren’t truly important. We begin to see goals and plans as worthless, because we never have time to see them through. We begin to feel victimized, out of control. We have shallow or broken relationships because there’s no time to deal with what’s really important to us. Have you ever worked for someone like this? It’s a nightmare! Everything is a crisis. 

Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent, and Not Important. If we choose to spend all our time here we take no responsibility for what’s really needed, we’re likely to be fired from jobs for stacking paperclips, and we eventually become dependent upon someone else or an institution just to meet our basic needs.

We can live from vision and choose our perspectives. We can create balance in our work, family, spiritual and recreational lives. We find discipline and control over our lives, and encounter fewer crises because we’ve addressed potential situations in advance.

Again, I’ve just skimmed the surface of Dr. Covey’s work with Habit 3: Put First Things First. I hope you’ll take these gems of wisdom home and put them to use in your own life.

Begin with the End in Mind

By Reverend Molly Cameron

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind.

Habit 2 has to do with what Dr. Covey calls First Creation.

Everything is created twice, first in the imagination, and then in real life. We are responsible for the first creation. The designer of a chair spends time in quiet mind, melding design with practicality to come up with a blueprint for this creation of chair. She also has values in mind for this mental creation. She might say, “This chair I’m designing needs to be utilitarian, able to be folded or stacked.” Or, “this chair needs to be comfortable and large enough for big people.” She has the end in mind for this chair.

We use this habit all the time; often, however, we are not conscious of what we’re doing, so we work from old scripts, recreating the same patterns, the same experiences, the same relationships. It’s only when we consciously dream a different idea that we break old mental habits and start creating the lives we love to lead.

Although this habit can be applied to any worthy goal, Dr. Covey doesn’t mess around — he actually means begin with the End in mind, and that’s with a capital E End. In the book he gives us this exercise to do, and I encourage you to actually do this — you’ll be surprised what comes out of it.

He suggests that you take 30 minutes of quiet time, eyes closed, and imagine that you are going to a funeral. If you’d like to do a short version right now, feel free to close your eyes, and imagine yourself driving your car to the chapel or funeral home. You park the car, and walk in past a large group of people who are talking about the one who has died. You feel the loss of this person, and the love that remains with those in the room. As you approach the casket you see that it is indeed your funeral.

There are four speakers at your memorial: one from your family, one is a good friend, the third is from your work or profession, and the fourth is from your church, or spiritual home. Now think deeply; what would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you like them to remember? What difference have you made in their lives?

If you do this, you will have gotten a picture of some of your deepest, most fundamental values. You’ve just touched the deepest part of yourself; in Covey’s words, you “established brief contact with that inner guidance system at the heart of your Circle of Influence.” 

You’ve created the End in Mind. You’ve identified whom you have come here to be, AND, the values that you hold dear are how you get there. Your values are your compass to get you there. How many here have a GPS in your car?  Why?  So you don’t get lost! Living your values guarantees that you won’t get lost along the way to your destination.

I just saw a great movie that teaches this lesson. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — who saw it? OK, here’s the story. It takes place in the world of Vikings, and the people are plagued with fire-breathing dragon attacks killing and destroying the villages. All of the villages want their skies to be free of impending danger. They don’t want to have to wake up every day in fear and dread for their lives and the lives of their children. They all had the same End in Mind – their skies free from the danger of dragons. 

Two villages in particular had this end in mind, and chose to be proactive and do something about it. So they began working in their Circles of Influence — what could they do to achieve this end of freedom from dragon threat? That’s where values come into play. These two villages had very different values guiding them. One village valued safety and security above all, and decided that dragons were the enemy and set out to capture and conquer them, to make them submit to rule. They inflicted misery on the animals, believing that was the best way to achieve their ends.

Another village also valued safety; however, they also valued friendship and love. They recognized that they could actually partner with the dragons and live in harmony and peace, making true friends out of them. You see how we can have the same End in Mind, but approach it very differently! Oh, I tell you, things got rough as dragons fought dragons. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but heck, it’s a kids film, so you can guess.

There is a first creation for every part of our lives. It’s created in the mind and heart as a blueprint for our becoming. Taking charge of the process of first creation is critical to our success. It’s the first step in taking the leadership role in our own lives.

Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, both business gurus, tell us: Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Dr. Covey adds: Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. 

We are all climbing a ladder of success, whether it’s as successful parents, or spouses, or success in our work or friendships. When we practice Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind, we are making sure the ladder is taking us where we really want to go.

Dr. Covey writes: Because I am self-aware, because I have imagination and conscience, I can examine my deepest values. I can realize that the script I’m living is not in harmony with those values, that my life is not the process of my own proactive design, but the result of the first creation I have deferred to circumstances and other people. And I can change. I can live out of my imagination instead of my memory. I can tie myself to my limitless potential instead of my limiting past. I can become my own first creator.

A critical part of this process is recognizing what is at the center of your life. Whatever is at the center of your life will be the source of your security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Each of us has one, although we might not recognize it as such. Here are a few you might recognize:

Spouse-centered. If your sense of emotional worth comes primarily from your partner, you are likely very dependent upon that relationship, and vulnerable to the moods, behaviors and treatment of that person. 

Family-centered. If your sense of security or personal worth comes from family, family tradition and culture, you are vulnerable to any changes in that culture or tradition.  

 Money-centered. Economic security is basic and puts aside family or other priorities, assuming everyone will understand that economic demands come first. 

Work-centered. One’s fundamental identity comes from what one does. Because identity and self-worth are wrapped up in work, one is vulnerable to anything that that happens to prevent that work from happening.

Possession-centered. A driving force of not only material possessions, but also intangible ones such as fame, glory or social prominence.

Pleasure-centered. We live in and depend upon a world of instant gratification.

Friend/Enemy-centered. We define ourselves by either whom we hang out with or whom we hate. 

Self-Centered. This is the most common center today. Covey likens self-centeredness to the Dead Sea — it accepts and never gives out and it is stagnant.

None of these centers give us what we really need — security, guidance, wisdom or power. These are all volatile, and change in any of these centers results in our personal upset. However, if we become principle-centered, we root ourselves in timeless, unchanging principles that help us withstand the vicissitudes of life.  Principle-centeredness means standing apart from the emotion of any situation and evaluating the options in order to come up with the best solution to any problem. It means taking into account the long-term, the End in Mind, engaging with personal values, and acting from a solid, balanced, center.

Covey opens the chapter with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that I’ll leave you with today: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  PracticingHabit 2: Begin with the End in Mind is the beginning of this great inward adventure.

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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