Start - Green ButtonThe 1st habit in the 7 habits of Highly Effective People is to Be Proactive. Unfortunately, many people do not completely understand this concept when they are first introduced to it. Most people assume it means to not be reactive, and to a certain extent they are correct.

Habit 1, Be Proactive, means to take personal responsibility.

We have all heard that term many times, as in “son, you’ve got to take responsibility for your own actions.” But what does that mean? Taking responsibility means understanding that you are in control over your own life. If you are in a bad situation, like a bad relationship or a bad job, remember that at some point you chose that option, or you are choosing to remain in that situation. Susan Jeffers in her book Feel the Fear — and Do It Anyway Dynamic Techniques for Turning Fear, Indecision, and Anger into Power, Action, and Love, lists seven definitions of taking responsibility.

  1. Taking responsibility means never blaming anyone else for anything you are being, doing, having, or feeling (Jeffers 43). Regardless of your situation and regardless of anything that has happened in your past remember that others have suffered same or even more horrifying experiences but they have made different choices about how to live their lives today than you have.
  2. Taking responsibility means not blaming yourself (Jeffers 45). I struggle with this one the most but perhaps I can also understand why, as many of us have been disciplined, fired or dressed down for making a mistake. We unfortunately, live in a society where mistakes are seen as bad rather than part of the learning process. Both you and I must make a conscious decision not to take power away from ourselves and make ourselves victims of our mistakes but students of them, irrespective of what the world believes.
  3. Taking responsibility means being aware of where and when you are not taking responsibility so that you can eventually change (Jeffers 46). I realized this when I decided to get rid of my road rage. Once I realized that I was causing most of the problem I could begin to correct it. Many people who are having conflict in their intimate relationships often fail to realize when they are not taking responsibility to make the relationship work. Many of us play the victim and expect others to make us happy. It is not your partners’ job to make you happy it is yours. Jeffers reminds us though that if someone is not supplying your basic needs to be nurtured and loved, you would probably do best to leave the relationship (Jeffers 47).
  4. Taking responsibility means handling the chatterbox (Jeffers 48). This is that ‘wonderful’ voice in all of our heads that keeps us from doing many of the things we really desire to do. It feeds our fears and will eventually build a wave of negativity that snowballs into 100 different imaginary scenarios that terrify us even more. Remember, you do not have to hang out with people you do not want to hang out with and that includes this ridiculous voice inside your head. The voice though never goes away, but you can change its rap. Replace what the voice says, which is completely within your control. They are called incantation and if you think they’re ridiculous, realize that you’re “inner voice” is constantly doing incantations – wouldn’t you prefer to write the script instead of it?
  5. Taking responsibility means being aware of payoffs that keep you “stuck.” (Jeffers 50). A core tenant of Tony Robbins philosophy is that we will do what works for us even though it might not be good for us in the long term. Many times we may find ourselves playing a sympathy card because it meets some of our needs, particularly for connection and significance. Do you have a friend that always seems to be sick or have some sort of ailment? Or they always have a bigger problem than everyone else, and that problem is keeping them away from their success? Or are you that person? Part of taking responsibility is understanding how we are manipulating others and BS’ing ourselves.
  6. Taking responsibility means figuring out what you want in life and acting on it (Jeffers 53). So many people spend their lives waiting for the perfect mate, the perfect job, the perfect anything – they wait for life to happen to them and for them. Throughout our lives we will see many people who talk about what they’re going to do, but there will be a special few that actually do it. The only thing stopping you from being the special few is taking that first step.
  7. Taking responsibility means being aware of the multitude of choices you have in any given situation (Jeffers 54). Our lives can be filled with dozens and even hundreds of different decisions about how the day will turn out. Unfortunately, many of us squander most of these decisions and end up with today as a repeat of yesterday. We all know that insanity is defined as doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. If you want a different day, make a different decision.

Make sure you are aware of the payoffs that your behavior is giving you and particularly those that are keeping you stuck in a situation you do not want to be in (Jeffers 56). Remind yourself that you have many options during the course of your day and that any new action will set you on a course for a new destination (Jeffers 56). Complain less (Jeffers 56). Write a list of all of the choices that are available to you that can change upsetting circumstances or incidents in your life (Jeffers 57).

Do not look at the choices you have made in the past or the mistakes you made as bad, simply view them as your personal lesson plan that is allowing you to move closer to where you want to be (Jeffers 57). Life is your syllabus. Finally, whenever anyone says to you to “be realistic,” remind yourself that you create must of your own reality (Jeffers 63). We all do. Reality is simply a perception of how we see things and we always have the power to change our perceptions. 

Jeffers, Susan. Feel the Fear — and Do It Anyway Dynamic Techniques for Turning Fear, Indecision, and Anger into Power, Action, and Love. New York, NY: Ballantine, 2007. Print.

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