So I’ve been reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey for a few weeks now. I thought it’d be 1 of those reads I’d get through in a week or 2 because I’m a fan of self-help and self-improvement books. The original plan was to write 1 post for each chapter. Let me tell you that within 15 minutes of reading, that plan was blown to smithereens. Yep, this negro said smithereens. There’s so much thought-provoking¹ and personally challenging content in the book that this series very well could end up running 10 or 11 parts. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna do them consecutively. I’ll be throwing in regular posts to keep you coming back (I keeps ‘em coming back! ughn!). But without further delay, let me get into the book itself.
As you can probably tell by the title of this post or know from reading the book previously, the 1st habit Covey covers is to be proactive. Before going through this chapter, I thought of proactivity as taking the initiative or doing what’s needed before it needs to be done so that you’re not forced to be reactive later on. Covey defines proactivity as being responsible for your own life. Responsibility here is the ability to choose how you respond to any particular situation, event, occurrence, and so on. So basically, nobody can piss you off. You choose to be pissed off. Nobody can make you spazz. You choose to spazz. Nobody can make you hate your job. You choose to hate your job. Nothing can make you fail a test. You chose not to do what was required to pass. I think you get the idea.
Covey went on to say that proactive people are values-based and allow those values to guide their decision-making and how they choose to respond to any situation, while reactive people are busy being driven by feelings, circumstances, and their environment — which all coincidentally end up controlling them. He then dropped in a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt to further drive home his point:
“No one can hurt you without your consent.”
I went forward a few pages in my Kindle and found this gem that had been highlighted by 2,224 other people that read the book on theirs:
“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
You probably heard the old adage about sticks and stones just as much as I did when you were a kid. It worked well for reacting to name calling and allegations of unpleasantness. But over the years, we’ve learned that words do hurt whether or not we want them to. As a Pisces and more importantly a person that openly feels his full range of emotions, it was hard for me to grasp what Covey was saying. Outside of words, I thought of things that have been done to me over the years or situations where I felt abandoned, ostracized, neglected, or offended and how I reacted independent of whether I was right or wrong. Even to this day when certain things happen that press my buttons (not the good ones), I feel compelled to respond in kind or to go 1 step above and not respond at all. Having someone tell me that what I’ve thought over the years was me being myself was actually me consciously choosing to feel however I felt created some internal conflict. I ain’t like it.
I had to power down my Kindle to deal with the thoughts going through my head and more importantly the defense mechanisms that came to life. “Nah man. Sometimes people really just piss me the f*ck off” and “Some people deserve the cold shoulder I’ve given them” were just a couple of the thoughts that went through my head. Just that day someone activated my inner-Hulk. It was hard for me to believe that I could’ve stopped, analyzed the situation, then tamed the beast within without a blink of the eye. But according to Covey, it’s possible. If your values drive everything you do, you can choose an appropriate and non-emotional response to nearly everything. Once I realized I was giving away some control, I started thinking about my values…and then my head started to hurt.
Sidenote: I see why some women respond so aggressively and defensively to some of the content written that’s geared toward them
and usually written by men. When someone challenges who you believe you are and forces you to look at a mirror of your core, your reaction may be just as unpretty as what you see.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. The discussion of values will most likely be a post in itself. But for the next post in the series, I want to talk about the circles of influence and concern, the impact they’ve had on my writing, and how I’m already turning things around. Hope you enjoyed and tune in for the follow-ups.
¹Originally said “meat” but I opted to replace it with something non-pausable.
**P.S. I forgot that I was supposed to schedule this for Tuesday and instead posted on Monday. Womps to me for that. Will be back on schedule on Thursday.**